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Bihar elections: 85,000 under-30 voters per seat, five times the win margin of 2010

The largest chunk of under-30 electors — close to 49.5 lakh — will vote in the final phase of polling on November 5.

Written by Ritika Chopra | New Delhi |
Updated: October 12, 2015 4:54:50 pm
bihar elections, bihar news, bihar elections news, bihar election news, patna news, india news, bihar polls, polling in bihar, bihar live, bihar polls live, bihar elections dates, Out of a total under-30 electorate of 2,05,70,308, almost 12 per cent (24,55,581) are first-time voters between the ages of 18 and 19.

For an election that pollsters are finding extremely difficult to call, the young, it seems, could well turn out to be the joker in the pack.

Election Commission data analysed by The Indian Express show that almost 31 per cent of Bihar’s electorate — which works out to nearly 85,000 voters on average in each of the 243 assembly seats — is under 30 years of age. This is several times more than the average winning margin of 15,000 votes in the last assembly elections in 2010.

Out of a total under-30 electorate of 2,05,70,308, almost 12 per cent (24,55,581) are first-time voters between the ages of 18 and 19.

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This is a group that was born at least six years after 1990, when Mandal changed the narrative of politics and elections; was too young when Lalu-Rabri’s RJD government was in power until 2005; and has seen Nitish Kumar as their chief minister for most of the decade that followed.

bihar elections, bihar news, bihar elections news, bihar election news, patna news, india news, bihar polls, polling in bihar, bihar live, bihar polls live, bihar elections dates,Some 36 lakh electors between the ages of 18 and 29 — more than 17 per cent of the young electorate — will cast their votes at 49 constituencies in central and southeast Bihar on Monday.

Among the big names in the fray are LJP candidate Pashupati Kumar Paras, the younger brother of union minister Ram Vilas Paswan (Alauli), HAM (S) state president Shakuni Chaudhary (Tarapur), and Bihar Water Resources Minister and prominent JD (U) leader Vijay Kumar Choudhary (Sarairanjan).

The largest chunk of under-30 electors — close to 49.5 lakh — will vote in the final phase of polling on November 5.

Close to a crore of people in this age group will vote in the last two phases, covering constituencies in the northwest and northeast of the state.

In as close an election as this appears to be, even a minor vote swing could give one political alliance a decisive edge over the other. A study by Deepankar Basu and Kartik Mishra published in the Economic and Political Weekly early this year found that the BJP benefitted from young and first-time voters during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The party has been promising jobs and better education to Bihar’s young voters; Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken of setting up a skill university in the state.

bihar elections, bihar news, bihar elections news, bihar election news, patna news, india news, bihar polls, polling in bihar, bihar live, bihar polls live, bihar elections dates,

The other side too is chasing this vote. Nitish Kumar has promised an engineering college in every district over the next five years.

“If given an opportunity to serve again, I will focus on youth power. This is the age of technology. We will ensure free Wi-Fi at universities and colleges. We will also introduce a student credit card scheme to facilitate bank loans up to Rs 5 lakh for Class 12 students,” Kumar had said in August.

Shaibal Gupta, member secretary of the Asian Development Research Institute in Patna, said, “Last time (in 2010) the average winning margin was 15,000 votes because it was a landslide victory for the BJP-JD(U) alliance. This time it’s a multi-cornered contest and the winning margin will be much lower. Whichever side the aspirational class and youngsters take will definitely make a difference to this election,” he told The Indian Express.

“Voters in this age group are post-reform babies. They are an ideology-free group. During the time they were growing up, the market played a more important role than the state, which changed the grammar of their outlook. When the state was more important then reservation, Mandal and caste dominated the discourse,” Gupta added.

Some analysts and experts, however, cautioned against exaggerating the influence of the youth. Psephologist and founding member of Swaraj Abhiyan, Yogendra Yadav, questioned the assumptions behind treating the young as a separate constituency. “A social group, no matter what its numbers, doesn’t become the swing vote unless they move together and behave differently than other sections of society. Do the young in Bihar see themselves as a separate constituency? I don’t remember looking at data which shows young voters vote sufficiently different from others,” he said.

Political scientist Suhas Palshikar said there is limited evidence for age-based voting patterns. “Development as an agenda is common to all age-groups and not just youngsters. I feel this is a bit hyped,” he said.

Palshikar’s colleagues at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), Sanjay Kumar and Pranav Gupta, have earlier argued in this newspaper that the turnout of youngsters may not be significant, as many of those on the electoral rolls study and work outside Bihar. But they have underlined that the shift of young voters towards either of the alliances could still tilt the contest.

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