For the 2014 General Election, the countdown has already begun for almost all the political parties. Although it is still half a year away from voting process to take place, the jostling among political parties to capture the imagination of their voters is palpable. But the upcoming 2014 elections shall be vastly different from the elections of the past.
# Young Voters Form Big Deciding Chunk of Voting Population
According to Census of India Organization provisional census data, India’s has total population of 1.21 billion, out of which 833 million live in rural India while 377 million stay in urban areas. The Election Commission of India believes that the total numbers of eligible voters are about 725 million. So what about young Indian voters?
Well, if we consider the 2011 Census figures, then the first time voters only, who shall be aged between 18 and 23 years at the time of General Elections in 2014, their head count would be 149 million. This chunk of Young Indian voters forms roughly 20% of the total voters of 725 million. And if take into account the three years gap between the 2011 Census and 2014 General elections, then this group of Young Voters would further swell to 160 million.
In case we extend the age of Youth up to 30 years, then the size of population in the age bracket 18-30 years would roughly be about 260 million, or about 35% of the total voters. And if we decide to take liberty and further extend the age of Youth up to 35 years, the size of youthful votes would form whopping 47% of the total voters, or in other words 340 million voters.
No wonder most of the political parties are laying greater stress on messages directed at youngsters, as youth are becoming more vocal about their political expectations.
# Internet and Social Media Shall Play an Important Role in Influencing Voting
We live in the world, wherein with each passing day, the Information Technology is spreading its wings among the general voters in India. The advent of smartphones and tablets has led to the resultant rise in the use of mobile internet; it’s pushing up the number of internet users. At present the India’s online population is third largest in the world and it is expanding six times faster than the global average growth.
According to the report on Social Media in India by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and Indian Market Research Bureau (IMRB),
• the number of Social Media users was 62 million in December 2012 and it was expected to cross the user base of 66 million by June 2013.
• there are about 80 million active Internet users in Urban India, out of which 58 million individuals (approx. 72 per cent) have accessed some form of social networking.
In another study undertaken by the 2013 India Digital Future In Focus report from comScore, the digital measurement company (this study was also reported by Rediff), they identified:
• India has seen a 31% year-on-year increase its online population and 35% of internet users are under the age of 35.
• Online population use majority of their time on the social media networks, with 86% of Indian web users visiting these platforms.
• Blogging is also gaining wider acceptance, as we see 48% rise in the blogging readers to 36 million visitors. About one-fourth of these visitors use mobile devices to reach blogs.
• Even the online video group is growing rapidly, it has witnessed 27% rise from its last year, with 54 million people watching content.
Any political parties worth its salt, they are unlikely to ignore this voting mass of these internet-savvy voters.
In coming months, we might see the political cyber-wars being fought on the social media turf.
# Convicted Criminals and Criminals in General Would Stay Out of Political Arena
Couple of months ago, on 10th July 2013, the Supreme Court of India delivered a historical judgement. In the Civil Writ Petitions 490 and 231 of 2005, the Court declared Section 8 (4) of the Representation of People’s Act, 1951 as ultra vires our Indian constitution. In addition, the court also dismissed two other Civil Appeals, 3040 and 3041 of 2004; it implies that if a person is held in lawful custody other than preventive detention, such person cannot vote in the election and cannot contest the election. The interpretation of 1951 law by the Court has far-reaching implications, as now Criminals can now be kept away from entering the political arena and it might help us stem the tide of criminalization of politics.
Predictably, the political parties voiced their concern about the possible misuse of the said judgement, as many of the politician fear that the cases of witch-hunting and politically motivated cases shall only go up. On the other hand, the Election Commission welcomed the judgement made by Supreme Court, which had declared the declaring ultra vires Section 8 (4) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 that allowed convicted MPs, MLAs and MLCs to continue their membership if they had appealed against their conviction and /or sentence within three months of the date of judgment.
According to the Representation of People Act, a person, who has been convicted and sentenced to two-year imprisonment or more, cannot contest any poll to Parliament, Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council. However, in cases relating to dacoity, FERA, rape, dowry, NDPS Act (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act), POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) and bribery, mere conviction would disqualify a person from contesting any election. This is applicable even if the person is on bail after the conviction and his appeal is pending for disposal in the higher court. The disqualification will be in force for six years from the date of release of the person from jail.
When the Government tried to bring in the Ordinance to protect the criminals in politics to prevail over the above-discussed Supreme Court’s judgement, the popular public sentiments, opposition by couple of political parties and the dramatic intervention by Rahul Gandhi forced the Government to withdraw the controversial ordinance and the Bill that sought to amend the Representation of the People Act and save the convicted lawmakers from disqualification.
Recently the Election Commission also announced the they are going to introduce “None of the Above” button on electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the upcoming polls.
It seems that the doors and even the windows are slowly but surely getting shut on the face of criminals.
These changes are good sign for Indian democracy, as greater transparency and accountability in the political arena shall only strengthen our democracy.
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