2024 Lok Sabha Polls Rise of Youth Power

The 2024 Lok Sabha elections are expected to be an electrifying saga for our democracy, characterised by a significant influx of young voters and an unprecedented emphasis on digital campaigning strategies
By Geeta Singh
  • 2024 Lok Sabha elections feature 19.74 crore young voters, promising to reshape the nation’s political landscape with youth vigor
  • Youthful voters will sway election outcomes in Maharashtra, Kerala, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Delhi
  • AAP’s youth outreach includes initiatives like establishing centers for competitive exam training, part of their strategy to garner youtH BJP actively involves youth through collaborations with YouTubers and influencers; over five Union ministers have participated in such efforts

THE 2024 Lok Sabha elections are anticipated to be a vibrant chapter in India’s democratic narrative. A youthful electorate is set to make a significant impact, with 19.74 crore voters under the age of 29 ready to cast their ballots. The Election Commission is preparing for a historic showdown, which will unfold over seven phases from April 19 to June 1, creating a palpable sense of anticipation. With a staggering 96.8 crore voters, including nearly 50 crore men and women each, the stage is set for a democratic event of unprecedented scale.

Youth power is at the forefront, as 1.8 crore first-time voters are eager to exercise their right to vote. This demographic shift highlights the need to address issues relevant to the youth, such as employment, education, environmental protection, and social equity.

In 12 Indian states, the number of women voters exceeds that of men. Additionally, there are 88.4 lakh voters with disabilities and 48,000 from the transgender community. To accommodate this vast electorate, 10.5 lakh polling stations will be established, and 1.5 crore polling officials will be deployed. A total of 55 lakh electronic voting machines will be utilised, making the 2024 election the largest democratic exercise ever and the most costly in India’s history.

The BJP is broadening its digital footprint and intends to employ contemporary communication tools like podcasts, webinars, blogs, and e-magazines to reach out to first-time voters. Acknowledging the widespread use of digital media among the youth, the BJP plans to leverage these platforms to disseminate its message effectively and gain support from young voters

Young voters are increasingly influential, comprising a significant portion of the electorate and playing a decisive role in election outcomes. States such as Maharashtra, Kerala, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Delhi have noted an increase in young voters.

This change could really shake things up in future elections because young people nowadays know a lot more about what’s going on and they’re not afraid to question how things are done in politics. Indian youth want leaders who are responsible, open about what they’re doing, and can actually get things done. Important issues for them are finding jobs, making sure everyone has a fair chance to succeed, protecting the environment, and making society fairer for everyone. 

Because of these concerns, political parties are changing how they do things to try to win over these important young voters.

BJP’S OUTREACH TO YOUNG VOTERS

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is engaging young and first-time voters with multifaceted campaigns.

The party has revealed a strategy for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to connect with first-time voters at 5,000 venues through the program ‘Namo Nav Matdata Sammelan,’ organised by the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), the BJP’s youth division. The aim is to engage one crore first-time voters aged 18 to 25 years. 

On National Voters’ Day, January 25th, Modi addressed new voters, urging them to register to vote and contribute their ideas for the party’s future initiatives through the Namo Nav Matdata Sammelan. Hundreds of thousands of youths have interacted directly with PM Modi. This initiative marked the first time a Prime Minister has engaged with first-time voters on such a grand scale. Approximately 1 crore first-time voters have been reached by this sammelan, and the BJP has recruited hundreds of thousands of young citizens as ‘Viksit Bharat ambassadors’.

Social media is being used extensively to connect with young voters, and the BJP has launched a new website (pehlavotemodiko.bjp.org) to involve young people and support them during the elections. The campaign’s central message is that Indian youth are in a better position now than before Modi’s decade-long tenure.

The BJP is captivating these young and first-time voters with compelling short videos that showcase the Modi government’s initiatives across various sectors, including education, health, communication, and startups.

Key highlights of the campaign include the ‘Startup India’ initiative, which has resulted in the creation of more than 100,000 new companies, including over 100 highly successful ones; a transformative new education policy; and the establishment of numerous educational institutions, such as 390 universities, seven Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), seven Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), and 15 All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) over the past decade. The campaign emphasises several significant achievements and initiatives that have purportedly reshaped India in different sectors. Initiatives like ‘Khelo India’ and the ‘Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS)’ are credited with revitalising India’s sports infrastructure. The development of expressways, the launch of ‘Vande Bharat’ trains, the increase in solar power capacity, and policies such as six-month paid maternity leave and a proposed 33% reservation in Parliament are also highlighted.

Young and first-time voters are emerging as an important electoral constituency for all national parties. The goal of the ‘First Vote’ is to increase the Congress party’s vote share in this group through interactive and technology-driven campaigns

Moreover, in his recent ‘Mann Ki Baat’ radio address, PM Modi spoke to these voters again, lauding India’s youthful vigour and spirit. He stated that their involvement in elections enhances the nation. Modi also discussed the Election Commission’s ‘My First Vote-For the Country’ campaign, which motivates new voters to effect change with their ballots. This ongoing campaign seeks to raise awareness among new voters and encourage them to take their electoral responsibilities seriously.

Tejasvi Surya, the MP for Bengaluru South and head of the BJP’s youth wing, has mentioned that the party is broadening its digital footprint. The BJP intends to employ contemporary communication tools like podcasts, webinars, blogs, and e-magazines to reach out to first-time voters. Acknowledging the widespread use of digital media among the youth, the BJP plans to leverage these platforms to disseminate its message effectively and gain support from young voters. Surya’s remarks highlight the party’s dedication to engaging with the tech-savvy younger generation in the forthcoming elections.

CONGRESS ENGAGING YOUTH

Not only the BJP, but the Congress party is also gearing up to engage with the youth in India’s rural areas through a mix of local initiatives and digital outreach. The strategy includes creating content that resonates with rural youth, conducting personalised door-to-door campaigns, and hosting college and community events. Additionally, sports tournaments and promises of enhanced sports and fitness facilities are being used to attract young voters.

In an effort to regain its footing after setbacks with first-time voters, the Congress party is going the extra mile this election season by introducing ‘Yuva Guarantee’ cards. These cards feature pledges focused on job creation and are delivered directly to the voters’ homes.

The demographic of first-time voters, defined as those aged 18 to 19, has seen a 20% increase since 2019, now encompassing 1.8 crore individuals. Furthermore, the Congress party is keenly focusing on the 19.7 crore voters aged between 20 to 29 years, aiming to secure their support. Last year in August, Karnataka’s Revenue Minister Krishna Byre Gowda and Indian Youth Congress Secretary MS Raksha Ramaiah launched the ‘First Vote’ campaign. ‘The First Vote’ initiative is a nationwide effort by the Indian Youth Congress to attract enthusiastic first-time voters aged 18 to 23 years, as the party prepares for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

Young and first-time voters are emerging as an important electoral constituency for all national parties. The goal of the ‘First Vote’ is to increase the Congress party’s vote share in this group through interactive and technology-driven campaigns. QR codes for registration will be included in the campaign. These QR codes will be placed on trucks that will travel across Karnataka, visiting hotspots like colleges, tuition centres, bus stations, and malls, where there is a higher concentration of young voters.

YOUTH OUTREACH STRATEGIES

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is deploying a variety of strategies to engage young voters for the 2024 elections in India. They are highlighting their achievements, particularly the progress made under the Kejriwal government over the past decade. AAP has launched door-to-door campaigns and is addressing issues such as the increasing crime rate in Delhi, which falls under the jurisdiction of the central government.

Additionally, AAP has introduced the “Ambedkar Fellowship for Political Change” to involve young individuals in the nation’s decision-making processes. This fellowship program involves youth in field campaigns, media and communications, and research and data analysis.

AAP’s outreach to the youth also includes new initiatives, such as setting up centres for training in competitive examinations and improving hospital facilities by 2024. These efforts are part of AAP’s broader strategy to connect with the young electorate and gain their support in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

In Bihar, a crucial state for young voters, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) has been running the ‘one booth, eight youth’ program since last year to bolster its booth-level organisation and mobilise workers ahead of the 2024 parliamentary elections. “The party has initiated the ‘one booth, eight youth’ program to ensure that there are at least eight young party workers responsible for each booth. Their role is to interact with voters, persuade them, and oversee the party’s arrangements leading up to the polls,” stated Shyam Rajak, RJD national general secretary. “Our district and state leaders have been instructed to visit each district monthly and conduct review meetings to assess progress and address any shortcomings. Our goal is to cover all 77,000 polling stations to establish a robust network of party volunteers before the elections,” added Rajak.

ENTRY OF AI IN 2024 ELECTIONS

As the world’s largest electoral festival commences, political parties are already leveraging social media extensively, and this time, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is proving to be a significant factor. The BJP is currently leading other political parties in adopting new technologies for campaigning

AS the Lok Sabha elections draw near, political parties are increasingly turning to artificial intelligence (AI) to share content on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter. This content serves various purposes, from promoting their own campaigns to mocking opponents and sending targeted messages to voters. The integration of AI in electioneering is expected to reach new heights in this election cycle.

In a notable instance from December 2023, during the Kashi Tamil Sangamam in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, Prime Minister Modi’s speech was translated into Tamil in real-time using AI technology. This innovative AI tool, which can translate speeches as they occur, may also be used to facilitate the organisation of rallies or roadshows for key figures in the Lok Sabha elections.

Messaging platforms like WhatsApp will be utilised alongside AI to broaden outreach efforts. During the campaign period, major political parties must address voters nationwide. In the Southern states, AI translation of speeches from North Indian leaders into various local languages is a strategy being employed.

However, the use of AI is not without its challenges. The proliferation of fake news on social media during election times is a significant concern. Political parties often favour platforms that allow for rapid engagement with the public, with few restrictions and large user bases. Platforms like Instagram and the platform formerly known as Twitter, now called Ex, serve specific segments of the public and offer unique formats.

Experts recognize the difficulties associated with AI technology, especially the swift spread of fake news or misinformation. Controlling this issue poses a considerable challenge. Deepfake technology, a sophisticated application of AI, can generate realistic fake images and videos, leading to serious security and credibility concerns. For example, during Bangladesh’s elections, there were allegations that government supporters used AI to create Deepfake videos that discredited the opposition.

The internet offers numerous tools capable of replicating an individual’s voice and behaviour, allowing for the creation of fake audio or video content. Such tools can be exploited to either enhance or tarnish someone’s reputation. If AI is harnessed to sway public opinion in favour of a particular candidate or party, it could also be used to send messages to specific groups to undermine the opposition. Moreover, AI can enable strategies beyond the scope of human imagination.

The recent general elections in Pakistan also saw the use of AI, where Imran Khan’s party utilised the technology to replicate his voice for campaign speeches, demonstrating the growing trend of AI in political campaigns.

SOCIAL MEDIA & INFLUENCERS’ ROLE

Prominent political parties are engaging local social media influencers to reach India’s vast online population of 622 million. As smartphone usage expands into rural areas, experts predict that platforms like YouTube will play a decisive role in elections. These influencers represent a new frontier in political outreach as the general elections approach, with Instagram and WhatsApp poised to play a crucial role in disseminating party messages.

Social media has been a tool in previous elections. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP effectively used X (then Twitter), Facebook, and WhatsApp to engage urban youth, share campaign updates, and spread party messages, in conjunction with private news channels. This trend mirrors the increase in internet users in India and the move away from traditional news sources. In contrast to 2019, Facebook is expected to play a smaller role in 2024, as BJP accounts have seen a decline in organic engagement on the platform. With TV anchors losing credibility among the youth, parties, particularly the BJP, are turning to social media influencers and platforms like Instagram and WhatsApp to communicate their messages. This strategy is crucial for reaching young voters who depend on digital channels for news and information.

According to a report by Google and Kantar India, a marketing data and analytics company, there are over 752 million active internet users in India. More than half access news online, with 45 percent stating that online news is more prevalent in their peer circles than traditional TV news channels. Akash Banerjee, a news satirist with a popular YouTube channel, notes that many young voters in 2024 have been raised on digital media rather than traditional news sources. Political parties are focusing on this demographic with online campaigns, and influencers are keen to participate as they gain more visibility with political content.

The BJP is actively engaging young people with YouTubers and influencers. In recent months, more than five Union ministers have appeared on YouTube programs as part of a collaboration led by MyGov, a government-operated platform for citizen engagement. MyGov has partnered with well-known social media personalities like Ranveer Allahbadia, aka @BeerBiceps, who has 5.7 million subscribers on YouTube, and Raj Shamani, who has a following of 1.37 million. A similar promotional strategy can be observed on food and travel YouTuber Kamiya Jani’s channel, Curly Tales.

Rahul Gandhi, and other opposition parties are also embracing social media influencers. During his Bharat Jodo Yatra, Rahul Gandhi engaged with YouTubers to connect with the youth. On June 26 last year, the Congress-led government in Rajasthan decided to officially collaborate with influencers before the assembly elections, offering to pay them between 10,000 to 500,000 rupees per month based on their popularity. This shift towards greater reliance on influencers aligns with the increasing internet usage in India.

YOUNGSTERS POLITICAL INTERESTS

Lokniti-CSDS surveyed 1,290 new voters in Delhi to learn about their political views, voting intentions, and top concerns.The majority of these voters, 91%, believe it is crucial for young people to be informed about national issues. While 6% express interest but find politics perplexing, only 2% feel that older generations should address these matters. 

In terms of political interest, 36% of new voters are highly engaged, 43% have moderate interest, and the remaining 21% show little to no interest, indicating that most new voters are eager to participate in the political process. When asked about their likelihood to vote, approximately 70% of voters stated they are very or somewhat likely to cast their ballots. Conversely, about 10% seem less inclined to vote or are unwilling to do so. Another 20% indicated they would vote if they could register in time for the elections. The data suggests a strong preference for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) among new voters for national leadership, with 70% support, indicating that a majority of first-time voters consider the BJP the most capable party for governing the country.

In Bihar, a crucial state for young voters, the Rashtriya Janata Dal has been running the ‘one booth, eight youth’ program since last year to bolster its booth-level organisation and mobilise workers ahead of the 2024 parliamentary elections

Prime Minister Narendra Modi enjoys considerable popularity among new voters; 48% hold him in high regard, and 33% like him to a significant extent. They particularly commend his oratory skills and his role in enhancing India’s international image—cited by 20% of the youth. Additionally, 17% admire his charisma, and 11% value his decision-making abilities. Moreover, 40% of young voters believe that no opposition leader is sufficiently formidable to challenge Modi in the 2024 elections. Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal were mentioned by approximately 17% and 16% of voters, respectively, as potential contenders, though other leaders received little mention.

PUBLIC OPINION AND CONCERNS

The Lokniti-CSDS survey, as reported by the Indian Express, reveals that 36% of Indians aged 15 to 34 identify unemployment as the nation’s most pressing issue. Concerns about poverty affect 16%, while inflation is a worry for 13%. The survey, which aims to understand the career aspirations and job preferences of young Indians, underscores the economic challenges they face. Only 6% of respondents are troubled by corruption, with education and population issues each concerning 4%.

Conducted across 18 states with 9,316 participants, the survey also indicates that approximately one in six Indians, or 16%, perceive poverty as the gravest problem, followed by inflation at 13%, corruption at 6%, and issues in education and overpopulation at 4%. Unemployment is a particular concern for the middle-class youth, with 40% of highly educated respondents deeming it a significant issue. Notably, only 27% of non-literate individuals regard unemployment as a primary concern, likely due to their openness to various job opportunities.

ENGAGING THE ELECTORATE

India has the most expensive elections in the world, surpassing even the United States of America. In 2019, the total spent by parties and candidates was around $8.7 billion to appeal to over 900 million voters. That year, 8,054 candidates representing 673 parties stood for election for a shot at becoming a Member of Parliament. Nearly 615 million people, or 67.4 percent of Indians, voted in 2019; this was the highest voter turnout on record.

The extensive use of social media and other digital means to connect with voters, especially the youth, is a testament to the changing dynamics of campaigning. It will be interesting to see how these efforts will influence voter turnout and election results, considering the substantial number of new voters entering the electoral process.

As the world’s largest democracy prepares for this monumental exercise, it will be fascinating to observe how the blend of traditional campaigning and modern technology will unfold in the world’s most expensive elections. The outcome of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections could very well hinge on the choices of the young and first-time voters, making their participation all the more crucial.

Geeta Singh

Geeta Singh has spent 20 years covering cinema, music, and society giving new dimensions to feature writing. She has to her credit the editorship of a film magazine. She is also engaged in exploring the socio-economic diversity of Indian politics. She is the co-founder of Parliamentarian.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

fifteen + fifteen =