TECH TALK: Technology and the Indian Elections: The New Indian Voter

I have a vested interest in the future, because I plan on living there. – Neil Gershenfeld

This quote sums up why Indias coming elections are so important. Previously, elections didnt matter much in India because we had a resigned air about the future a what will we, will be kind-of despairing mood. But of late, there is an air of optimism sweeping India that tomorrow can actually be better than today. Its a feeling that has not been seen before perhaps the last time Indians would have experienced it would have been at the time of Independence. Or perhaps, when Rajiv Gandhi came to power in 1984 with an unprecedented majority.

The reforms started by the Narasimha Rao government in 1991 and built upon by the Vajpayee government over the past four-and-a-half years have helped create an India shining feeling. The government can play the role of inhibitor or accelerator going ahead. For all that we say about them, Indias politicians do genuinely have the ability to make or mar Indias future. And that is why the elections of 2004 are so important. For the first time in many decades, there is hope about the future. What India needs to do is build on this.

That is where, it is important for Indias people to participate in deciding the path that the country takes going forward. Democracy is about the choice of the people and Indias people now have to make their choices. More than at any time, Indias youthful population needs to get engaged about building the platform for decades of growth. Elections are a way to get the populace engaged. Indias hidden strength lies in its democracy, and as the recent Assembly elections demonstrated, developmental issues, rather than some petty issues, seem to be the driver for the voters. Finally, people are beginning to ask: So, what have you have done for me, lately?

Wrote Shekhar Gupta in the Indian Express after the Assembly elections: [The elections] arrival of a new India, awash with a feel-good mood not seen since Rajivs first year in power, and powered by a new voter who asks real questions on his quality of life, rather than succumb to old slogans, mantras and the pull of any dynasty. You send tacky, free school-bags to children who have seen better bags on their TV screens. You insult them. What this voter is telling you is, dont throw me a freebie. Promise me a much better tomorrow its my rightNearly five crore (50 million) voters in the 2004 elections would have actually been born after Indira Gandhis assassination and that they will vote on a promise of a better future than on the prejudices or loyalties of the pastIf there is one thing the New Indian Voter is not ready to compromise with, it is the future. Irrespective of what your ancestors did for his in the past.

Indians go to the polls in a rare moment of optimism in its history. It is also time for the 20-somethings and 30-somethings who will be voting to do more than just cast a vote. Technology affords India a platform to collectively brainstorm and participate in building a better nation. History has not witnessed such an event since the only other country our size is not a democracy.

Tomorrow: Rising Democracy

TECH TALK Technology and the Indian Elections+T

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.