‘Malleable, uncertain but determined to vote:’ Thoughts of a first-time voter from Mumbai

As Mumbai gears up for elections, a first-time voter writes about her engagement with politics and expectations from elected representatives.

Voting in the largest democracy in the world holds great responsibility. The moment you press a button on the ballot, you become a part of those who choose to take the onus of moving their country forward. This election will be my first as a voter.

In a democracy every citizen has a say in the governance of the nation. But 1.44 billion people cannot all be directly a part of the government. So we choose a few people, who will represent us and our interests— expecting them to meet the needs of the many.

As a child, my knowledge about voting and elections was limited to the ink on my parents’ nails every few years, and how the teachers would complain about having to work too many hours over their regular working day for election duties. 

I never even liked civics as a subject. It wasn’t until college that I got some real exposure to how the world works. I met people from all kinds of backgrounds, opinions, disciplines and I realised one cannot remain apolitical.

I also recognise the greatly privileged position I come from, having always had my requirements met. Thus, when I was asked what it is that I, as a 20 year old first-time voter, expect from my elected representatives, I had to think long and hard.

Read more: What we want from our future MP: Observations of a student from Mumbai’s Kranti Nagar

Politics, elections and family conversations

As a voter or just as a citizen, it is incredibly difficult to remain unbiased or neutral, especially when it comes to something so sensitive as the Lok Sabha elections. My first conversations about politics came from heated dinnertime debates among my family members. Later, when these debates crept into our classrooms, the conversations would be with my friends, who, much like me, would rattle off things they had heard at home.

As I grew older, I was encouraged to read the paper more frequently, and my classmates started developing their own opinions. The ever-present goliath of opinions, advertisements and arguments, aka, social media, has also coloured much of my generation’s thought processes.

I have noticed that the majority supports the ones already in power. There are very few answers given by those around you to questions like “why” and “what for.” Another trend I have seen is the equally passionate multitudes of the left-leaning youth and the right-leaning retirees. My opinion is that no extreme is ever sustainable, and one must develop a healthy centre.

On a personal quest to balance my outlook, I started exploring the history of governance in Maharashtra, India and the world. My rudimentary observations are that the world moves cyclically. Power keeps shifting, as do the norms, needs and thought processes of the society. In the end, the world is much larger and more delightfully complex than anyone can predict.

Take the mid 19th century in India; despite being colonised — at the peak of political subjugation — the buoyancy and vigour of the people led to Indian literature’s golden age. Unexpected alliances, policies, and consequences are the way of the world.

However, despite all my earnest ideological, practical and academic forays into this task of electing a government, the fact remains that I remain malleable and uncertain. As with everything in this world, the candidates, mirroring the voters, are in shades of grey.

Expectations of first-time voters

There will be 18 million first time voters in India this year. The votes of these young people will ensure that their interests are represented in the parliament.

As for what I expect from the authorities, the core of my argument would boil down to “inclusivity.” The process of governance needs to be more easily accessible and inclusive for the entire demographic of the country.

India is an incredibly diverse nation, and each section of its society needs and deserves to be represented. I feel, politics and government should be more accessible to all and not just remain a topic of discussions for the common public.

Read more: Lok Sabha 2024: A people’s manifesto for urban areas

I am a student, and it is my personal opinion that there needs to be a revision of the reservation system. It is definitely necessary for India’s national goal of welfare and social equity, but the implementation needs to be more effective, and it should reach out to those who need it. I think scholarships and presence of more educational institutions, transport and accommodation options in every part of the country will help.

Rural women in India
Representational image: As a first-time woman voter, Arushi wants her elected representatives to ensure safety for all women and for policies to be inclusive. Pic: EpiscopalRelief via Flickr

As a woman, I would ask for safety. Despite schemes and policies to encourage female involvement in the ever-growing economy, reality is different. Moreover, basic physical safety needs to get much better. What needs to change is the attitude of people towards women. If they are not seen as equals, there can never be true participation or well-being.

Increasing women’s representation in government bodies will be an effective way to project valuable encouragement to all women around the country.

India also presents complex problems; with female foeticides and casual sexism happening in the same country. Both are equally valid, just at different levels on Maslow’s triangle.

Where problems of identity can come from a lack of recognition in the constitution (as in the case of the forest dwelling tribes), they can also come with misgendering and exclusion from sports (as in the case of transgender people).

Accountability of government, responsibility of voters

It is not practical or possible for these concerns to be addressed by one particular set of people. A more inclusive government will help bring the voices out of the shadows. Voters have a crucial role to play for this to happen.

Citizen participation is a hugely important aspect of governance. Emphasis on grassroots administration, local bodies and more direct communication should be laid.

Once people feel included and responsible for the decisions made in their country, they will be intrinsically motivated to make positive changes; laws will be more strictly adhered to, and honest dealings will flourish in everyday life.

Every Indian yearns for India to become a developed country, a feat possible only with the wholehearted shoring up by all its enthusiastic people.

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