2019 elections: Are young voters aware of their democratic duty?

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Chennai: It is less than 24 hours for polling and campaigning came to a end last evening for the Lok  Sabha and Assembly by-elections in Tamilnadu.

A look back at the past four weeks reveal the agony, aggression and anxiety among leaders of various political parties, on the campaign trail. From non-stop visits to various constituencies atop a van, street-corner meetings besides TV debates, it was all engaging, entertaining and nonetheless enthralling.

Promises were made and words were exchanged – verbally and physically, too, in few places. The 2019 polls will go down in the history of Tamilnadu as most keenly watched for the two major parties (AIADMK & DMK) fight it out without J Jayalalithaa and M Karunanidhi.

Having said so much, has their campaign reached the young voters, especially those all set to exercise their franchise for the first time?

Political observer Kannan told News Today, “Social media campaigns do attract youngsters. Remember, they could be gathered in one place for jallikattu protests a few years ago thanks to mobile phones and social media. It is both a boon and bane today for them. While they may get some important political information, the very fact that lack of authenticity in ‘news’ spread through the medium is the biggest question mark. Unfortunately, youngsters are swayed by it.”

Echoing him, Sam Johnson, a retired government teacher, says, “Today’s youngsters lack patience. They have forgotten the habit of reading. They understand politics through ‘memes’. Sadly, these memes are generally one-sided, aimed at evoking laughter. A few of them don’t know the difference between Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. Many don’t know who is contesting in their constituency. They arrive at an opinion influenced by their friends or the gadget in their hand.”

Political awareness is more in the rural areas. The youngsters there are given the responsibility to  conduct temple festivals under the supervision of elders in the village. They have to socialise as they interact with people, he adds.

Recalling the active participation of students in the anti-Hindi agitation and during Emergency, Krishna Kumar, a political science professor in Chennai, says, “Several leaders in Tamilnadu today started their political career when they were students. There was no mobile phones, internet or news channels available then. Still they had more political awareness. Today everything is there, but the zeal to know more is not there.”

However, Nandagopalan, a college student, defends his tribe, saying, “Today’s students are a knowledgeable lot. They understand their local problems. Their political awareness is high. May be they are quiet, since they are vexed with the poor political culture.”

“The success of jallikattu protest is an indicator to what students can achieve. Change should begin from us. We discuss politics regularly,” he adds.

M BHARAT KUMAR