Festival of democracy in country of youths

   By Vijay Darda | 18-03-2024

Even the population in over 130 countries is not equal to the number of our new voters!

Even as I was analysing ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, I stumbled upon a fascinating piece of information that the number of voters who will exercise their franchise for the first time in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections in India is more than the population of over 130 countries worldwide! Remarkably, the number of eligible first-time voters has exceeded a staggering 1.80 crore. If we consider the number of voters under the age of 30, it surpasses an astounding 21.50 crore. That is why I am describing the elections as the great festival of democracy in the country of youths.

These statistics illustrate the extensive reach of Indian democracy. These figures not only highlight our status as the largest democracy in the world in terms of population, they also emphasise our position as the oldest democracy in the world in terms of historical legacy. It is worth noting that the foundation of democracy was first laid in Vaishali during the Licchavi rule in India. Just as our modern-day Parliament, an assembly existed during the Licchavi rule. It is indeed a cause for celebration that despite numerous challenges and disparities, our democracy continues to evolve and grow.

At the time of the first Lok Sabha elections, the population of India was around 36 crore, out of which only 17.32 crore people had their names registered in the voters’ list. In 2024, the population is over 140 crore and there are over 96.80 crore voters in the voters’ list. This is about 66.76 per cent of the total population. Compared to 2019, the number of voters has increased by about 6 per cent.

It is a matter of satisfaction that the number of women voters has also increased significantly. While male voters have increased by 3.22 crore, the number of female voters has increased by more than 4 crore. There are about 1.85 crore voters above the age of 80 years, including over 2.18 lakh voters aged 100 or more.

The best thing is that the youths seem eager to vote. Many among the first-time voters are living away from their families due to their jobs. I know young people who booked train tickets to travel back home immediately after the election date was announced on Saturday. These are the youths who will spend from their own pockets to exercise their right to vote.

I want to remind you that previously all members of the family used to vote for whoever their family elders asked them to. However, this trend has changed with wives, sons and daughters now voting based on their own choices. Earlier in some states, weaker sections were prevented from voting and booths were captured, but this is no longer the case. People are now more vigilant about protecting their right to vote. This shift reflects the true spirit of democracy, and it is this passion that brings pride to our nation.

A major issue in our country has been the nexus of crime and politics. This time, the Election Commission has made it clear that all political parties will have to disclose the criminal record of their candidates. Furthermore, they will also have to justify why the ticket has been given to that candidate, and why the ticket has not been given to any other person from that area. It will be interesting to see how political parties comply with and interpret this directive of the Election Commission.

However, the entire country wants our political system to be clean and devoid of criminals. This is the reason why there is an uproar regarding electoral bonds. People are not able to comprehend how donations were accepted from people who were accused of economic offences. How much better it would be if donations were accepted only from those whose conduct is clean and impeccable!

I have consistently advocated that the only way to make elections financially transparent is to enforce the limit on election expenditure. At present, the limit of expenditure in Lok Sabha elections is a maximum of `95 lakh. Is this limit truly realistic? This matter requires careful consideration.

There is one more update regarding the elections. The high level committee on ‘one nation, one election’ led by former President Ram Nath Kovind has submitted its report of over 18,000 pages. It is evident that discussions on this matter will only take place after the Lok Sabha elections. The ongoing elections are being carried out in seven phases, with suggestions that efforts should be made to ensure polling in the entire country in a single phase first before discussing the possibility of holding ‘one election’!

Nevertheless, the magnitude of elections managed by our Election Commission is a daunting task even for a developed nation. With over 10.50 lakh polling stations, approximately 3.40 lakh personnel from the Central police forces and state police forces will be deployed for the elections. There will be 55 lakh EVM machines, and the Election Commission will oversee the machinery nationwide until the elections are completed to ensure fairness and impartiality.

It is evident that when the nation is so vigilant, it naturally bolsters the confidence that no one can undermine our democracy. While political parties and their leaders may wield power, the ultimate authority lies with the voters. Preserve this strength within you. Do not be swayed by emotions, caste and religious divisions, or personal desires. Nothing can be more important than our country!

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