Nilesh Mhetre, a 19-year old, works as a helper at a garment company in Solapur and earns Rs 300 per day. When asked whether he has an account on Facebook he laughs, says, "I work for 13 hours per day. Then I get so tired that I don't even get time to sleep well. Who will have time to do Facebook and all?” Nilesh is one of the millennial voters, living in Solapur.
Now, come to another city of Yavatmal, a municipal council from Vidarbha. Amit Thakare is the 20-year-old son of a well-to-do shopkeeper. He is there on Facebook as well as Instagram. When asked how does he see the coming elections and whether he would go for voting, he immediately responds, "Yes, this election is for the future of India. Modiji is doing great job and we will vote for him."
Let’s take the example of Chandrapur which is in eastern part of Vidarbha. Pradeep Zade is a 20- year-old boy pursuing B Com . He is also on Facebook and Instagram. He also follows television news channels. When asked about his opinion on the Modi government and the work done in the last five year, he clearly shows his disappointment. He said, “He just kept talking. Nothing changed in the last five years. The students want development here, but there is nothing to see. The youth from our city still have to go to Nagpur or Raipur or to Madhya Pradesh in search of job opportunities. Then why should we give him one more chance?”
Also read: Elections 2019: Unemployment to Affect BJP’s Performance in Maharashtra, Say Youth Leaders
With the increasing buzz over the role of millennial or first time voters in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections, NewsClick spoke to voters from this age group throughout Maharashtra, from Solapur in the west to Yavatmal in Vidarbha and Chandrapur, which is located to the east of Vidarbha. What became clear is that the interests and political preferences of this generation in the age group of 18-24 are quite varied. Their opinions are shaped due to their financial backgrounds as well as their understanding of the overall situation.
Puja Upase is a student of Sangmeshwar College in Solapur. She thinks that the person who would bring development to her city through new job opportunities and modern facilities should be elected. "I am studying now. My elder brother has gone to Pune in search of job. We in Solapur are forced to go to Pune or Mumbai or Hyderabad for better prospects. Jobs should be available for us here. Whoever promises that will get our votes," she said.
When asked their opinion on the BJP’s advertising strategies, it became clear that they have different perspectives. Amit from Yavatmal asked, “Every party engages in advertising, what is wrong with that?”. However, Suraj Kamble from Nanded in Marathwada had a different view altogether. He said, “Why are they spending so much money on advertising? I read somewhere that Modi sarkar (government) spent over Rs 5,000 crore on advertising. These people say that they do not have money for development work while they are spending such huge amounts on advertising. If they were actually getting any work done, they wouldn’t have to spend so much on advertising then.”
Also read: Election 2019: Maharashtra Dalits Are Angry, But How Would Their Votes Impact Results?
Interestingly, almost no one across Maharashtra supported the idea of divisive politics. Even Amit Thakare who supported PM Modi and said that he would vote for BJP, distanced himself from communal politics. "I do have Muslim friends. I do not support Modi for these things. My support is for his schemes like Digital India or Start-Up India. Every party engages in such politics. Don't you think Congress plays Muslim politics? Or even politics based on caste?," asked Amit.
Job opportunities in their home towns, development in terms of modern facilities, good and affordable education are the priorities of millennial voters. But interestingly, caste lines have also sharpened in recent times. Twenty year old Ratnadeep Gaikwad from Nanded, who works in a local garage as helper thinks that the youth today are discussing caste more than before. "We have caste centric WhatsApp groups. We discuss a number of things, from job opportunities to issues like inflation. But most of the time, we just forward messages that we get from others," he said. Puja Upase of Solapur also confirms this. She says, “We don’t discriminate on caste lines, and have friends from all castes. However, discussion on castes do arise, especially when we are talking about jobs and reservation, or marriages.”
There are 9 crore first time voters in India this time. Even 50% votes from this group can change the outcome of elections. The political rush to get their votes is obvious in such a situation. But what is important to note is that the millennial voter is clearly divided into a number of segments and that will give a tough time to those campaigning for the elections.
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