The 2009 Parliamentary elections in India saw as many as 79 candidates under the age of 40 getting elected to the Lok Sabha (58 were first-time MPs). A good deal of post-election media coverage analysed this development as the surge of youth power in politics and pointed out that since more than half of India’s population was below 35 years of age, a rise in the number of young MPs was only natural. Their argument being that the young had voted for the young. While there is no denying that a large proportion of India’s population is young, it was perhaps too simplistic to conclude that voting choices of the youth are dictated mainly by the age of the candidate. Such an analysis also completely discounted the reality that the Lok Sabha’s youth quotient was provided almost entirely by scions of dynasties. A majority of the young members of Parliament in 2009 were from a privileged background and their election could have had to do largely with the fact that they belong to families that are well entrenched in politics. Therefore, family connections and not their age could perhaps have better explained the entry of young candidates into the lower house of Parliament. Another fact to consider was that while the number of young MPs was slightly higher than what it was in the previous Lok Sabha, the average age of the 2009 Lok Sabha was 53, which made it the third oldest House. What’s more, the percentage of young members (in the age group 25-40) had gone down sharply from 26 per cent in the first Lok Sabha to 13 per cent in the 15th Lok Sabha.
Also, if we looked at turnout among youth and whom the youth voted for, we found no distinct pattern. In the four Lok Sabha elections preceding the one in 2009, the youth-vote for the major political formations had been within a two-percentage point band around the average vote share. It seemed therefore that the youth were not very different from the rest of the population. Therefore, the big question was, had the distinctiveness of the youth vote been overhyped by the media? Was there really a youth vote or was it a myth? Did young voters have opinions that were different from the rest of the voters? There were few comprehensive studies looking at these questions.
In light of this lacuna in the research debate, Lokniti-CSDS along with Konrad Adeneaur Stiftung conducted a micro level study to map out the nature and character of ‘Youth politics in India’ in 2011.
Apart from looking at whether or not the youth constituted a distinct political bloc, the study also looked at the following aspects:
The study was a comparative exercise juxtaposing the young and the older generation, and an overtime analysis of certain aspects of youth.
A sample frame was created of all Lok Sabha seats where the winner or the first runner-up was below 40 years of age in 2009 Lok Sabha elections. We found there to be 143 such seats; 79 had elected young MPs and 64 had young candidates as runners-up. From these 143 seats – 14 Lok Sabha seats were randomly selected (10% of the universe). Within each Lok Sabha seat, we selected 2 Assembly Segments. Within each Assembly Constituency, we selected 4 locations. In each selected location 36 respondents were randomly selected from the electoral rolls in the ratio of 2:1 of Young (18-33 years) and Rest (34 years of more). We approached 4032 voters for interviews out of which 2565 interviews were completed (1532 interviews of those who were between 18 and 33 years and 1033 interviews of those who were 34 years and above). The sample was spread across 12 states of India. It comprised of 9 'young winner' seats and 5 'young runner-up' seats. The 14 candidates belonged to 9 political parties, 11 were men and 3 women. 7 of the 14 candidates were from political families.