The Times of India

MUMBAI: Maharashtra's young voters will have nearly equal say as their seniors, who comprised the voting majority till the last elections. The tally of voters in the age group of 18-40 years now almost equals that of those aged 41 years and above, shows updated data from the election commission. Moreover, around 36 lakh new voters were added to the electoral rolls this time, which analysts say could positively impact poll turnout. 

Updated voter data in the state reveals there were 3.8 crore voters aged 18-40 years compared to nearly 4.08 crore voters in the age group of 41 years and above. "If we add the number of voters up to the age of 45 years to the group of young voters, then it is evident that a big chunk young voters will influence the upcoming Lok Sabha elections much more significantly than older voters," said an expert with the state's electoral wing. 

For the Lok Sabha elections, the state has added nearly 36 lakh new voters aged 18-25 years. While 92.98 lakh such voters were registered till Friday evening, the same number was at around 57 lakh during the last assembly elections. Similarly, voters in the age group of 26-40 years went up to 2.87 crore till Friday from the earlier 2.1 crore. "We have around 1.5 lakh more applications pending and data entry is still on. We hope to complete the tally by April 5," said a senior official. 

BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari said young voters would prove to be decisive in choosing the next government. "Our modest estimate is that around 40% of these young voters have registered due to the efforts of the BJP and BJP-friendly groups. This time we are witnessing widespread alertness among the youth and other voter," he said. Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said, "Our party has always tried its best to involve younger people in governance. The youth are feeling empowered because of the progress that Congress-ruled governments have achieved. The IT revolution brought by the Congress has set the trend." 

Ajit Ranade of the Association for Democratic Reforms said the number of new voters registered this time appears higher than expected. "Traditionally the voting pattern among the youth has been low. But if they vote this time in as large numbers as they have registered, there are high chances they will chose more candidates with clean records and who would respond to their aspirations," he said. 

CEC V S Sampat said the percentage of voters with photo IDs is 92 % in the state, evidence of growing awareness among young voters. A special drive in the state registered 17 lakh young voters. 

"Countrywide, the last three-four years have shown an increase in voter participation. Younger people are getting more active in politics. I hope a similar trend continues in the state and Mumbai. Traditionally, voting has been very low among those aged 18-23. Of the country's 81 crore voters, 10 crore are first-timers this year. If women and young voters participate in large numbers, they will make a huge impact," Ranade added.

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