Demographics and ELECTORAL Dynamics

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Demographics and ELECTORAL Dynamics

Friday, 22 March 2024 | Kumardeep Banerjee

Demographics and ELECTORAL Dynamics

With media and AI at play, India’s electoral system is poised for transformation

One of the biggest exercises on the world democratic stage has been activated, with India’s Election Commission announcing the poll dates for electing members of the 18th Lok Sabha (lower house of the Indian Parliament). A gargantuan exercise representing the democratic will of more than 969 million registered voters, with a giant shift in electoral demographics, is now live. The general elections of 2024 are easily one of the largest public exercises globally, with numerous variables at play, including but not restricted to the tough summer conditions in India for voting, new technologies such as AI having a disproportionate reach through popular digital channels, and the democratic choices of a new young India in the 21st century.

Some statistics come in handy: the number of registered voters has increased by 8% since 2019, and the largest chunk of these numbers comes from women, youth, and people with disabilities (PwDs). The number of registered women voters for 2024 exceeds males in at least 12 states, and more than 20 million new voters added are below the age of 30. These newly registered voters, i.e., youth, women, and PwDs, even though numerically smaller, can hold the swing value in tricky scenarios. They also represent the changing will of voters and therefore the backward integration of their aspirations into the election manifestos of various political parties.

It may be argued that the current ruling party has successfully managed to assimilate many of these aspirations without ever leaving its core religion-based ideology and has perfected it to deliver a tailor-made concoction to the voters, leading to huge electoral gains since 2024 both at the centre and state levels. Meanwhile, the opposition seems to fumble and revert to bygone era economic policies (including reservation, quotas in jobs, and loan waivers, etc.) for favourable outcomes.

Prime Minister Modi seems to have mastered the art of finding a new constituency to address every time there is an anti-incumbency factor at play. From reaching out to sections within the marginalised and minority communities to addressing concerns of the youth through his regular communication to creating special tailor-made welfare schemes for women, he seems to have the magic formula for winning.However, unlike in the past, at least for the time being, the PM is sending out a huge message of confidence in continuity.

A couple of senior bureaucrats, this author spoke to, also reiterated that most of them are engaged in several policies or decisions, the intent of which has already been sounded out or notified, so that they can be fully equipped when the new government starts functioning from the middle of June. The Prime Minister has also reached out to all his outgoing cabinet colleagues to prepare a 100-day action plan for the new government.

In the run-up to the announcement of election dates and just before the model code of conduct was set in, the government moved quickly to activate some of its recently stated economic targets for India to become a developed country in the next two decades. Key among them is plugging India into the global technology supply chain, including high-end semiconductor manufacturing, thus creating new jobs and business opportunities. The other aspiration of creating prosperity through trade has progressed, with India recently announcing one of its first trade deals with the Western block of nations. Some others like a UK and EU free trade agreement are in various stages of progress, with the government hoping to pick up negotiations from June onwards. As of now, it looks like the policy framework and outlook for India are likely to stay the course with a new government in place.

(The writer is a policy analyst; views are personal)

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