First-time voters

Published: Thursday 06 March 2014

In the 2014 elections, the number of new voters will be higher than votes polled by any party in the general elections of 2009. In fact, the new voters as a block will be larger than the much sought after ‘minority’ vote banks. At the same time, they are India‘s truly first generation that has grown up with liberalised economy; growth is the only measure of national wellbeing they know and recognise. Are they going to be electorally influential?

Going by the census report of 2011, there will be 12 crore voters who will vote for the first time during the elections of 2014. The actual figure may go up to 14 crore as the census data was collected in 2010-11. India has about 79 crore eligible voters. In general elections of 2009, the Congress polled a total of 11.9 crore votes while the BJP managed to get 7.8 crore. The importance of the new voters can be assessed from the fact that the politically important state of Uttar Pradesh (with 80 Lok Sabha seats) has the country’s highest number of first-time voters. As a block, they account for 17.6 per cent of the state’s total voters, a bit less than the Bahujan Samaj Party’s total votes (2.6 crore) polled in 2009 elections. It is no wonder that both the Congress and the BJP leaderships appease the youths of the state that is ruled by a young chief minister. Maharashtra, where regional parties with young leaderships are prominent, is the second state in terms of new voters. More than 13 per cent of its voters are first timers.

It is not only the first-time voters emerging as a block, but also the urban and semi-urban middle class voters. They are a block of 15 crore eligible voters. Despite the usual practice of looking at voters in terms of caste grids, the elections in 2014 may witness these groups emerging as the new electoral castes. While talking about the urban voters, social media users have emerged as an influential subgroup of voters who may swing election results. According to the report of the Internet and Mobile Association of India published in October 2012, social media users like the members of Facebook can swing votes in the range of 3-4 per cent in 24 states. In India, there are nine crore voters who access social media. This survey found that political parties in India had already earmarked around two to five per cent of their election budgets for social media campaigns.

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