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Why nearly half of young Indian voters won’t participate in the elections this year

By Ananya Bhattacharya

With two-thirds of India’s population under 35 years of age, the youth vote could prove to be a game changer in the upcoming general election. And young Indians are not taking that responsibility lightly.

Over three-quarters of young Indians extensively research each candidate in their constituency before voting, according to a new survey by the English news app Inshorts.

“Gone are the days when casting votes was considered a burden, the overwhelming response of the survey throws light on how the perceptions about elections have changed,” Azhar Iqbal, CEO of Inshorts, said in a press release on March 28. “Nowadays, people are aware about their rights and consider casting votes a responsibility as citizens.”

Inshorts surveyed 200,000 Indians—mostly aged between 18 and 35 years—in March. A majority of the respondents hailed from urban regions like Delhi National Capital Region, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pune, Hyderabad, and Chennai. 

Young Indians are so serious about the elections that over eight in 10 believe voting should be made compulsory while around two-thirds said they cast their votes every time without fail, the survey showed.

Over 900 million Indian voters will take to a million polling stations across the country between April 11 and May 19 in the general elections. The results will be declared on May 23.

Suspicious process

The debate (pdf) on the legitimacy of the electronic voting machines (EVM) has made many sceptical about the election process. Nearly a quarter of the respondents in the survey said they doubt EVMs.

Additionally, over 46% Indian voters think the option of NOTA (none of the above), wherein a citizen can reject all the contesting candidates, serves no purpose really.

The NOTA category has no electoral value and is largely symbolic. The candidate with the most votes still stands to win the election.

Lost votes

During the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the voter turnout was 66.38%—though a record-high, it shed light on the issue of lost votes plaguing Indian elections.

Five years ago, over nine in 10 wanted to vote but could not as they were either out of town or studying abroad, among other things. This year, too, many Indians are planning to give election day a miss for similar reasons.

“Due to the lack of digital medium of voting in the election, a lot of voters also miss out on exercising their voting rights since many live in other cities for job, business and education and have to skip voting because of travel constraints,” Inshorts said. “As high as 45% of Indian voters in the survey cited that they will not be travelling back for elections if away from their hometowns.”