“A PM should be someone who looks at everyone the same way and not differently on the basis of their caste. Here in UP especially, the people vote according to their own caste lines – Pandits for Pandits, Yadavs for Yadavs, Thakurs for Thakurs, etc.”, says Shubam, a first-time voter who belongs to the current PM’s renowned Lok Sabha seat of Varanasi.
We spoke to many more youngsters like him. This election season, we gathered the popular sentiment of the first-time voter: young people in the age group of 18 and above from small towns and villages – the millennial, the digital news-savvy citizen and members of a generation better known for their fickle mindedness and low-attention spans, more than anything else.
What would a seemingly unfazed group of people, have in mind while pressing the ballot? What beliefs and hope, if any, do they have in a leader and in democratic systems? Aman, another first-timer from Ayodhya feels, “I believe in democracy because there are a lot of terrible things happening right now, and only when we participate in it, will there be a chance to change this, help the poor and usher development.” Rashi from Ayodhya, too has the same faith, “I believe in democracy and think we should at least have knowledge on who is the best to rule us.”
As for what they desire from the next government, it was an almost unanimous call for jobs, fulfillment of promises and an end to casteism. A recent NSSO report that was leaked but not released had pegged the unemployment rate at a four decade-high of 6.1%. Even with this figure, the Centre for Sustainable Employment at Azim Premji University cites that, unemployment among the educated youth is thrice the national average. Many are also unemployed or unable to find jobs proportionate to their college degrees.
Sharad Kumar from Chitrakoot said, “I hope for someone who can deliver on Vikaas and make me feel like my vote did not go to waste. Most have given false promises. This time we want someone who will provide jobs.” Hemant from Mahoba shared, “If the candidate can work for us, my vote will go for him/her. One who provides jobs, ends poverty and focuses on Bundelkhand. I will not vote for caste.”
For others like Rajat, from Varanasi, it’s a feel-good stepping stone, “I feel good voting for the first time because I am now mature enough to take my own decisions and will vote for a candidate based on my own rationale and opinions, not based on family or peer pressure.” Just the procedure was enough to excite Adarsh, from Ayodhya, “I’m just waiting for the day when I can give my vote and see how an EVM machine works.” Angel, from Banda, had another reason to be excited, “I am a student volunteer and will be assisting at polling booths to help out the old and women among the voters.”
Besides the excitement and hope, how much information do they have on their candidates, through what sources, and what do they rely on for the final decision? Deepak from Banda says, “I get to know about candidates through news, Facebook, WhatsApp, Z News, Live 29, etc. We know that most of them are fake.” Hemant also added, “There is a lot of fake news circulated by parties so that real issues are sidelined.”
Shubam, from Varanasi, has a word of advice for all fellow first-timers, “Look at the candidate contesting from your constituency and whether (s)he will work for it, and not at who will become the PM.”