This unique approach shows why the assembly election could well be a hyperlocal one than with a state-wide narrative. They may be young. They may be amateur voters. They may be less aware of the state’s political history.
But the young voters of newly formed Telangana state, some of whom will be votoing for the first time in the assembly polls on 07 December, are clear about their voting priorities and where their political preferences lie.
This young generation — a key electorate — offers a glimpse of which way the electoral winds are blowing in Telangana.
While there is a desire for ‘change’, these voters seem to have a refreshing perspective — that the candidate in their constituency is more important to them than any political party, and the merit of their candidate overpowers their wish to see a certain party come to power in the state.
This unique, contradictory approach shows why this assembly election in Telangana could well be focused on the candidate at the micro level than with an umbrella, state-wide narrative.
The TRS, led by chief minister K.Chandrashekhar Rao popularly known as KCR, has ruled the state for 4.5 years now, making this government the only dispensation these young voters have any memory of, the only one they have known.
It is just another day at the Osmania University campus in Hyderabad — with students rushing for their classes. As her morning class gets over, 24-year-old Swati Reddy chats with her friends outside the university library. A BE student, Swati will vote for the second time in her life in the coming polls, the first being in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Swati Reddy is clear she likes the TRS government and wants it to continue in power, but she is equally clear that her voting preference is going to be determined by the candidates in her constituency, even if that means not voting for the TRS. She feels the Congress candidate in her area is more deserving, and hence, that will determine her vote.
“I want the same party to continue because I think that is the best party. But in my constituency, I am supporting Congress. I will vote on the basis of candidate,” she says.
Swati Reddy is just one among the many young voters who have this curious, contradictory approach to the elections.
“There is a need for change in thought in the state. ‘Soch badalni chahiye’. Hence, a change in government is needed,” says Shaik Faheemullah, a 22-year-old Law student, who will vote for the first time.
“But in my area, I want TRS to win since its candidate is better than the Congress one,” Faheemullah says.
His friend Sharath Kumar, also a first-time voter, explains how their voting in this election will be determined not by an overarching state or national issue, but by local issues that are of immediate concern to them.
“Issues are different depending on the area. I come from Adilabad district and for me, lack of cleanliness and regular crime rate increase are major issues,” he says.
“I want a fresh face at the state level now. But irrespective of party, I will vote depending on my candidate since eventually they are the ones that impact our lives,” Kumar adds.
Rakshanda Khan, a first-year B.Pharm student from Anwarululoom Pharmacy College in Hyderabad — a private institute — will vote for the first time.
Khan has been a high-profile district given its Lok Sabha constituency has elected the likes of Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi, Asaduddin Owaisi and Ahmed Pasha Quadri from Charminar Constituency in Hyderabad.
“The TRS government has worked a lot in the state, but in my area, the AIMIM has been the one that has actually been getting some work done,” she says.
“I may like the TRS at the state level but in my constituency, the AIMIM is a better option,” she maintains.
This conflict between political leaning and voting preference also shows why these elections could perhaps be more closely contested and without a clear wave.
This also shows how hyperlocal issues, anti-incumbency at the constituency level and the work of the candidate could be more critical than the popularity of a party or its face in the state.
However, given the TRS government has been in power for 4.5 years, some young voters also show their yearning for ‘change’.
‘We want change’
“Satta parivartan hona chahiye. 4.5 saal inko dekh liya. Ab kuch naya ho. (There should be a change of regime. We have seen them for 4.5 years, there should be something new now,” says Rajesh Maheshwari, a 22-year-old student at CBIET in Hyderabad.
Agress Arvind Meena, is a final-year BA student at the state-funded Pulla Reddy College at Mehdipatnam in Hyderabad.
“This will be my first voting experience, I am really excited,” the 19-year-old says.
“I support the Congress party as I feel TRS government hasn’t really done anything. To get things done on the ground, a change in government is needed,” Meena says.
Then, there are voters like Sameena Sultana, a B.Tech (IT) from Shadan Engineering College who say they like the TRS because of its emphasis on the young, its initiatives such as housing, 24-hours electricity and the Shaadi Mubarak scheme and hence, will want to see it being voted back.
Besides local issues, the greatest concern among student voters appears to be the lack of job opportunities in the state. Employment and education, they say, are areas where the state lacks, and they expect the next government to correct this imbalance.
The KCR factor
However, most of the students are clear on one aspect — their admiration for TRS supremo and caretaker chief minister KCR, a fact that the TRS hopes will keep it in good stead, at least among young voters in this polls.
“In state elections, it is about the local candidate. But in Lok Sabha, I will vote only for KCR, he is the best,” says Lingaiah of Telangana University.
At government girls’ college, a classroom full of final-year BA students is reluctant to talk about the elections, and the students say though they will vote, they don’t know much about their candidates or the state’s politics. However, the one thing they seem clear about and willing to declare is their desire to see KCR as CM again. #KhabarLive