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With over 15 million first-time voters in 2019 Lok Sabha elections, millennials' votes could play decisive role

Elections are always unpredictable. No number of exit polls can accurately predict which way voters may actually swing. It is little wonder then, that the uncertainty increases by several folds when the nation's young electorate is a 15 million strong voting force.

In an address to the media on Sunday, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora had said that the total electorate in this year's Lok Sabha polls will be 900 million, 84.3 million more than the electorate during the 2014 general elections. Of these, 15 million are new voters in the age group of 18-19 years. It was no wonder then that only a few minutes after the Election Commission announced its schedule for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter to "particularly call upon first-time voters to vote in record numbers".

In 2018 too, Modi's Independence Day speech had especially referred to those born from 1997 to 2001. The prime minister spoke about how 2019 will be a "decisive year" of their lives.

Political parties have been going all out to woo this young electorate – be it through social media or quirky campaigns – to nurture them as steadfast loyalists.

 With over 15 million first-time voters in 2019 Lok Sabha elections, millennials votes could play decisive role

First-time voters in Rajasthan. 101Reporters

An analysis by The Indian Express reveals how the youth may hold the key in as many as 282 seats across 29 states in 2019, where there could be more first-time voters than their respective winning margins in 2014.

Young voters are particularly influenced by social media. The narrative of wooing the youth hence, has also changed from 2013-14.

Modi, during his campaigning ahead of the 2014 polls, had depended on a group of student volunteers to spearhead his Chai Pe Charcha campaign as well as Facebook-driven social media interventions, writes The Economic Times.

Recently, the saffron party began its 'Mera Pehla Vote Modi Ko' (my first vote to Modi) campaign to attract first-time voters. It is one of the 14 programmes that the party has assigned to its youth wing Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) with an objective of drawing maximum support of young voters.

A BJP member was quoted by the Hindustan Times as saying that these events would be conducted in colleges and universities to make young voters pledge their "first vote to Modi". "They can post their pledge in social networking sites, which will also encourage others to take a similar pledge," he said, adding that a "youth icon network" will be set up in each state to engage with the younger troop.

Aiding these social media programmes, without doubt, are cheap smartphones and 4G connectivity, that are fast making in roads into rural India.

The Congress, likewise, has been inventing and re-inventing itself to increase young voters' membership by at least a million, cites a report in The Economic Times. The party's outreach programme includes a rights-based "I-Am-India" campaign (similar to the "Je Suis Charlie"), reaching out to first-generation students and women.  Joint secretary of the National Students' Union of India (NSUI), Congress' students' wing, Ruchi Gupta is quoted saying, "I Am-India is a way to tell the youth that what defines you as an Indian is your citizenship, not your food and not your religion. We want to spread the message that Congress, unlike BJP, stands for inclusivity.”

In a neck-to-neck race to outdo each other, the two national parties had even released two rap videos targeting each other within a span of one hour. Both parties had put up the same song 'Azadi' by Divine, whose rap career inspired the film 'Gully Boy'.

The BJP highlighted alleged corruptions and scams during the UPA rule, with former telecom minister A Raja along with Modi's speech talking about a 'Congress-mukt Bharat'.

Congress, in the meanwhile, came up with its own version, where Rahul Gandhi can be seen saying, "the day we get united, RSS, BJP, and Modi will run away".

With only days left for the elections to kick in now, only time will tell which political parties had their finger on the pulse of the young voter.

Your guide to the latest election news, analysis, commentary, live updates and schedule for Lok Sabha Elections 2019 on firstpost.com/elections. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram or like our Facebook page for updates from all 543 constituencies for the upcoming general elections.

Updated Date: Mar 11, 2019 20:43:59 IST