An election for the young

A strange thing happened as I settled down in front of the TV last Sunday to watch the Assembly elections’ results roll in. Sadiyah, my 10-year-old, stopped what she was doing and joined me.

As the trends started firming up, she peppered me with questions.

“Who’s winning?”

“Why?”

“What did the chief minister do wrong?”

“Why are all those people carrying brooms?”

“Why is that man saying no to becoming CM?”

I thought these were very intelligent questions coming from a 10-year-old. Indeed, these were the very questions the so-called pundits were asking, albeit in more sophisticated language.

In the past few years, I have worried about the way politics has been evolving in India – vastly more divisive than before and plumbing new depths of vulgarity every day. But Sadiyah’s interest had a strangely alleviating effect. Somehow, it made me feel that if children this young can show analytical thought about governance then young voters would be far more clued in and determined to make the right choice.

In less than six months, roughly 15 crore Indians are expected to cast their votes for the first time. These first-time voters account for 20% of the electorate, according to Election Commission data. About 10.38 crore of them are in rural areas.

I have never had time for the notion that the youth are only interested in the good life or that they live in a bubble that hides the true reality of India. Ever since I began teaching – in 2004 – I realised that India’s youth are knowledgeable about national issues and savvy while casting their votes.

Time and again I have been surprised in classrooms by how well informed young people are and by their evolved views. For instance, I was told years ago by a student that governance failure at the Centre would force many to turn to right-wing alternatives that base their ideology on hate. At that time – I was a journalist then ­– I dismissed the idea. How wrong I was.

But this awareness also gives me great hope. It is these very young people who will shape India’s future. If it’s in their hands, we’ll be fine.