Look Carefully Where India’s Young Voters Are
Did India’s first-time voters really deliver in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections?
The answer is no but there is another angle for the new Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi to consider: states with relatively low development (defined below) also have a high proportion of young voters. This is either encouraging or something to be concerned about, depending on which way you look at it.
The 2014 elections saw a record number of young or first-time registered voters - 23 million. This chunk of 18-19 year olds forms 2.8% of the total eligible voters in India. In some states, the proportion of young voters went up to 9% of the total electorate.
Table 1: 5 States With Highest Proportion Of 18-19 Year-Old Voters
Table 2: 5 States With Lowest Proportion Of 18-19 Year-Old Voters
The table above shows the top five and bottom five states with proportion of young voters higher/lower than the national average (2.8%). The general elections saw strong support for the BJP and a voting wave in many states. Hence, state-wise trends in voting with high and low proportions of youth do not show much difference in party-wise preferences.
The average voter participation in these two groups of states is also more or less the same.
States like Odisha (where BJD got the maximum seats), West Bengal (AITC), Tamil Nadu (AIADMK) or Andhra Pradesh (TRS and TDP) did not offer big seat shares to national parties. So, a high proportion of young voters may not be a very significant factor to any party’s success or loss of seats in the elections.
But what is interesting to note is that the states with high population of young voters are also among the least developed states of India. States with high development indicators have achieved the targets of low total fertility rates. In fact, in many such states, the ageing population may be a problem for policy-makers, as reported earlier by IndiaSpend. The following tables show the difference in under-development index among the above states from the Raghuram Rajan Committee report. The higher the underdevelopment/need index score, the worse the state as per the indexing in the above report.
The Government evidently needs to focus more on regions where development is low and the youth populace is high. Particularly, if the aspirations of these young voters have to be met over time. The youth need more opportunities in terms of education, employment and better living standards. The electorate in India is also more sensitised to corruption and development issues. The recent elections seem to be a reflection of that, somewhat. Also, the greater mobilisation of voters in this election and a record 66% participation all over the country spells greater awareness and demand for answerability from them.