On April 24, when Mumbai goes to the polls to select the six people who will represent the city in Parliament, there will be many below 25 who will vote for the first time. These youngsters are hoping to be the change they hope to see in their constituencies. Shanel Moraes, 19, who lives in Andheri is hoping through his first vote to help ease the price rise issue facing the country. The animation design student says, “I am apprehensive about casting my vote for the first time. But I am hoping to do good research and vote for a deserving person.”
From left to right
POWER TO THE YOUNG: Prem Koli and Sushant Hanchate show their voter’s cards. Pic/Prashant Waydande
Pooja Ranpise is glad she can finally vote now. Pic/Prashant Waydande
Steffi Gomes is confident her vote will be a winning one. Pic/Prashant Waydande
Abu Sama is getting to make a difference. Pic/Prashant Waydande
Priyanka Shrigadi is apprehensive about her first vote. Pic/Datta Kumbhar
Shanel Moraes is all set to cast his first vote. Pic/Atul Kamble
Undecided so far
Pooja Ranpise, 19, a Chembur student is undecided about whom she will vote for. She says, “I don’t know all the candidates in my area, but I know that voting is a very important duty that I have as a citizen. I am curious to see what will happen. But I am sure that I will vote more for the PM of India than for an MP from the area.”
FINALLY: Kavitha Iyer on being able to vote for the first time
Another youngster, Sushant Hanchate (20), from the South Central area, is also unsure whom he should vote for. The PL Lokhande Marg resident says, “For me, as a citizen of India, voting is very important. I have not yet decided whom I will vote for but I will choose someone who will work for my area. I will decide after talking to my family and friends whom to vote for. I am really excited about my first vote.”
Change: Hansika Subramanian hopes to do that by casting her vote
Joy of voting
Michelle D’Souza (19), a student from Sandhurst Road, says, “For a really long time, I have always looked forward to casting my first vote. Now, I am happy that the day is going to come soon. I have already made up my mind whom I will vote for.”
In the last election though he had registered to vote, Abu Sama, 25, a resident of Govandi did not get to vote, but this election after finally getting his voting card he is very happy. Sama says, “I am not very excited about these elections as the politicians always make promises but fail to deliver. It is only during election time that the politicians surface, prior to that and after that they are forever missing. As a citizen, I am happy that I will be able to do my duty and vote.”
Joy: Michelle D’Souza is happy she can now finally vote. Pic/Datta KUmbhar
Swept by a wave
For Prem Koli, 21, from Chembur there are mixed feelings of fear and joy ahead of casting his first vote. Koli says, “I have done a keen study of the politicians from my area and have made a decision about whom I will vote for. My family has a particular party which they vote for but I am voting for a person who I feel will bring change to India and put an end to the price rise. In his state as chief minister he has done a great job and I am sure India will see great progress under this person. I want to choose India’s PM and so will cast my vote accordingly.”
Agreeing that a new person needs to be given a chance, Priyanka Shrigadi, 18 who is excited about voting for the first time, says, “India has seen too much corruption and vice; the time has come to put an end to all this. With the future of India at stake, it is important to vote for someone who can bring great changes to the country. I want to use my vote to give some intrinsically Maharashtrian people and parties a chance.”
Hansika Subramanian, 19, who studies in Manipal, will be coming back to the city to cast her vote. The media student says, “A lot of things influenced me to vote for change this time. I started following the economic strategies in India; they need a change. A secular thought is required, safety, scandals, money-laundering, scams have just forced me to vote and do something with the frustration I hold inside me.”
News and views
A recent street play that he saw has made Moraes realise that there are a number of issues in his area, which people are not aware of. Having received his voting card a few weeks ago, he says, “I get these chain emails telling me to vote and not to vote for a certain political party and person. As someone who makes his own decisions, I have at moments thought that there is no use in voting, looking at the way politicians behave, but I have faith in the democratic process.”
Ashwin Badola, 23, who lives in Jogeshwari, says, “From the common man to a tea seller to dynastic rule, there are many people vying for the prime minister’s post. I am aware of national happenings, but sadly I can’t say the same about my area. My parents have a party that they vote for; I on the other hand would prefer voting for India, and so I’ll vote for the PM more than for an MP.”
Choosing to vote for a person who has done good work in her constituency, Steffi Gomes, 19, says, “In my area, I am very happy with the work done by my current MP. I am following the news and have decided to vote for consistency and continuance, despite the clamour for change around.”
Poll ploys are not fooling the first-time voters in Mumbai, as Zubeida Khan, 22, a Bandra resident says: “These fights with fellow politicians and alleged caring for people from the constituency is all a big sham. As a student of Political Science I can see through this. It’s about who can do what India needs in 2014 that is important. No one man or woman can do anything; yes, a good leader is needed but more than that a good group of cabinet ministers are also required. My first vote is special and I will research well and cast it. I am not afraid to use NOTA (None of The Above) if the need arises.”
Fights and long speeches seem to be too boring for young people in the city as Jai Pradhan, 18, confesses: “I like organised debates and civilised behaviour but that’s missing in Indian politics sadly. I had great faith in a party but was let down when they were unable to handle power recently. My first vote may just end up going to NOTA.”
Having similar views, Malathi Jogi, 21, says, “I think these elections are the shrillest I’ve ever seen. There’s too much focus on mudslinging as opposed to discussion of reform or policy agenda. The shoddy level of political discourse has almost put me off Indian politics.”
Problems and more
From education to sanitation to water issues, youngsters seem clear about what they need in the city and in their constituencies. For Shrigadi, bad roads are a problem that she hopes her vote will help to solve. It’s education that Jogi sees as a huge problem which she is confident her vote will help to ease: “Failing and inadequate infrastructure, poor delivery of basic rights, especially to those most deserving, and long delays in availing most government provisions. Personally, I’m very concerned about the standards and infrastructure in education.”
D’Souza says she wants better sanitation facilities, as she explains, “Water problems aside, pipes are forever broken all over the place, causing wastage and flooding. I want my MP to be someone who takes responsibility for their area. Many politicians keep shifting the responsibility from one to the other. I am clear of the change I want and will vote to ensure that it happens.”
With political parties using Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms for their campaigns, Ranpise says, “Yeah I follow politics on social media, but I am looking closely at the work that is being done in my area and that will influence my vote.” “I feel that the ongoing election campaigns may not have much of an influence on my decision to vote for a specific candidate. What is more important is that the candidate must possess certain leadership skills and must be capable enough to lead our country in a manner so as to bring about the changes that every Indian hopes and dreams about,” says Kavitha Iyer, 18, another first-time voter who feels that if you don’t vote, you don’t have any right to criticise the government that comes to power.
>> According to the Election Commission, among 5.35 crore young voters (aged 18-40) in Maharashtra there are 11 lakh fresh voters (between 18 years and 19 years) who have been registered and will cast their vote for the first time in this election.
>> Street plays, flashmobs and chain SMSes to college students in addition to Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus messages are the ways political parties in Mumbai are targeting youngsters.
>> Mumbai has six Lok Sabha constituencies – North West, North Central, North, South West, South Central and South.
>> NOTA – None of The Above – is an option that was first used in the five state elections in India in 2013 and will be used in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. By the use of this option, a person can choose to reject the candidates standing from his or her constituency.