New Delhi: There has been a sharp dip of 35 per cent in the first-time voters (18-19 age group) enrolled with the Election Commission of India in 2019 as compared to 2014, when their support had given a clear edge to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
According to EC data, 1.5 crore first-time voters have enrolled so far in 2019 as against the 2.3 crore in 2014. Almost 50 per cent of these 1.5 crore first-time voters in 2019 are concentrated in five states — West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra.
In terms of overall percentage, the first-time voters in 2019 will constitute 1.66 per cent of the total electors.
Advantage or disadvantage BJP?
Political analysts say that though a 35 per cent dip could be a disadvantage for the BJP, where the party will gain is that the chances of the debutants voting for the BJP are strong.
“Among the first-time voters, there is still a lot of attraction for Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” said Sanjay Kumar, director of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies. “He is seen as a strong leader and these voters are likely to vote for BJP because of him.”
Kumar, however, says that in states such as West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh, which have registered the highest number of voters in the 18-19 age group, they will not make a difference in overall positions.
“In West Bengal, for instance, 20 lakh voters have enrolled in the 18-19 age bracket. On an average, this will account for 50,000 voters in each of the state’s 42 constituencies,” Kumar said.
Professor Badri Narayan of Allahabad’s G.B. Pant Social Science Institute also concedes that first-time voters will go by charisma and Modi continues to have an edge in this aspect.
“Somebody who voted for Modi in 2014 might go for a Priyanka Gandhi or Akhilesh Yadav this time but a first-time voter is likely to go for Modi,” Narayan said.
Also read: West Bengal has maximum number of first time voters, followed by UP & MP
Numbers could be higher: EC
As the EC maintains data of first-time voters only in the 18-19 age group, the number of voters debuting in these elections could be higher.
“There could be first-time voters who are over the 18-19 age group and who are enrolling for the first time in 2019. We do not have data of all first-time voters with us,” Ashok Lavasa, Election Commissioner, told ThePrint.
Lavasa added that the number of first-time voters is likely to go up further as the enrolment process is still on.
“We will enrol all those who apply 10 days before the nomination date for candidates ends. That is the legal process,” Lavasa said. “People can now apply online also. In the last two months, we have received 30 per cent applications online.”
In 2014, the BJP had gone all out to target first-time voters and the party had acknowledged their contribution to the overwhelming numbers that it got. Even this time, BJP has not lost sight of this electorate. Last month, the party launched the ‘Mera pehla vote Modi ko (My first vote for Modi)’ campaign in Uttar Pradesh targeting the first-time voters.
Also read: Catch them while they’re young: Congress set to woo first time voters for mission 2019
2014 was a wave, 1984 was a tsunami. Not sure if one can pick out a specific group, like first time voters, and say they have strong voting preferences distinct from their families. If anything, the state of education and the absence of jobs is something that matters most to these very young voters. The question 23rd May will answer is whether objective factors will decide a second term for the incumbent or it will be driven by emotion.
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