Patna to Khagaria, first-time voters share excitement, fear of 'COVID-time polling'

·4-min read

Patna, Nov 3 (PTI) As Bihar election is being conducted amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a section of young first-time voters shared their excitement and apprehension of casting their franchise for the first time in a new normal electoral environment.

From capital Patna to far-off Khagaria, many asserted that they 'voted to bring change', while others said pollution, women's safety and jobs weighed heavy on their minds.

Many youth like Patna resident Faiz Abdin rued that heritage is 'never a political issue' even though it is of such critical importance.

'I voted for change. The idea and vison of existing leaders have become stale and old. We need new minds, fresh leaders,' he said.

Faiz, 24, who did his schooling from Patna and has a bachelor's and master's degrees in history from Delhi University, described the polling during the pandemic as 'a pretty exciting experience'.

'I got my finger inked for the first time and shared a picture on Instagram too. Seeing it live how the voting procedure takes place and being a part of it, was wonderful. Social distancing was being followed and everyone was wearing masks,' he added.

Many youth were also apprehensive about their safety due to the pandemic, but for the first-time voters, perhaps the excitement overweighed the fears.

Asked what issued weighed on his minds and his expectations from the new government, he said, 'I do not expect or demand anything extravagant from the government. I want pollution issue to be tackled, and women's security and religious harmony should be among their priorities'. Khagaria district native Neel Madhav, 21, who did schooling in Patna and graduated recently from the Delhi School of Journalism under the Delhi university, shared a photo on Facebook flashing an inked finger as he stood against the backdrop of an old, dilapidated school used as a polling booth in his town.

'For me, healthcare and education are top priorities, but none of these are electoral issues. Even COVID-19 and floods, both of which wreaked havoc in Bihar, are not an issue, except some politicians trying to lure voters with freebies of vaccines for it,' he said.

The vaccine has not even been developed and there is politics already over it, said another first-time voter from Patna, who did not wish to be named.

When asked why heritage is not an issue in elections, most youth concurred 'it is not a subject that will swing voters in your favour'.

Madhav cited the example of the centuries-old Patna Collectorate, parts of which were built during the Dutch era to illustrate his point.

'I am part of the 'Save Historic Patna Collectorate' movement running from 2016 to save this iconic landmark. The Supreme Court in September this year stayed the demolition proposed by the state government. Is the collectorate on any party's agenda?' he rued.

Heritage is never an issue for any party because it is a subject to which 'very few people relate to and have respect for,' said Faiz, adding, 'but heritage should be a political issue'.

Raksha Raj, 23, from Patna, who recently got a job in Benglauru as an engineer said, 'I love my city. The only thing that I want so badly right now in Patna, is to have jobs here for me, so I won't have to leave for Bengaluru.' Raj, also an amateur artist, was so excited that she did a poll-themed mandala art and posted it on her Instagram profile along with photo of her inked finger.

Polling was held for 94 constituencies of Bihar assembly on Tuesday in the second phase of elections which will decide the electoral fate of RJD leader and Mahagathbandhan's chief ministerial face Tejashwi Yadav and more than 1,450 other candidates.

Besides Tejashwi, his elder brother Tej Pratap Yadav and four state ministers are also in the fray in this phase, which also features one transgender candidate, fielded by the LJP.

Congress leader Shatrughan Sinha's son Luv Sinha is also contesting the poll in this phase from crucial Bankipur seat.

Of the 2.85 crore voters, 1.50 crore are male, 1.35 crore female and 980 transgender, according to Election Commission data.