For 21-year-old Shardul Deshpande, his first vote was not so much a matter of excitement as of serious political choice. The third-year history student at Mumbai’s prestigious St. Xavier’s College is not a voter in the city. He comes from Aurangabad, the main city in the Marathwada region, which is reeling under yet another drought. On 23 April when Aurangabad voted, Shardul chose the Congress nominee. “I do not live in my constituency and do not plan to live there ever in my life," he says, explaining why he made his political choice considering the national priorities and situation. “Considering that I did not care much for the local issues, I made my choice looking at the national scenario," he says. While the main reason he chose the Congress candidate Subhash Zambad was the lack of criminal cases against him, Shardul thought deeply about the previous five years of the current government before making his choice.
“Over the past few years, I have seen the current government interfere with the institutions of the country, first with the Supreme Court, then the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) and RBI (Reserve Bank of India) among many others. This was and is too dangerous a precedent for me to cast my vote for them, regardless of the little net positive that they have accrued over the years," he says.
A compulsive runner and hungry reader of science fiction, Shardul listed other reasons for not voting for the BJP. “The second reason is the pure economic failure due to policies like demonetization that slowed down the GDP growth for the first time in a decade. The subsequent change in the calculation of GDP and other figures has led to international distrust in the government figures," he adds. The conscientious voter that he is, Shardul did not miss the two other major issues that made the headlines these five years—jobs and farm distress. “The economic situation also extends to unemployment and the government’s refusal to release employment figures. It would also be hard to not mention the inadequate policies to alleviate farmer distress," he says.
In Aurangabad, a communally sensitive city with a significant Muslim population and a prolonged dominance of the Shiv Sena, the social quotient of the Modi government also mattered for this first-time voter. “The third and last reason for not voting for the BJP would be the increase of the fringe and radical voices on the far Right, which often takes the law into their own hands and suppresses fundamental rights. India has slipped by 21 points in the press freedom index in this government’s tenure and that’s quite a shocking and an indicative number," he summed up.
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