What’s on the voters’ minds as India heads into a 6-week national election

(16 Apr 2024)
RESTRICTION SUMMARY:

ASSOCIATED PRESS
New Delhi – 29 March 2024
++STARTS AND ENDS ON SOUNDBITE++
1. SOUNDBITE (English) Manya Sachdev, 22, student and first-time voter:
“So, for me, I think the biggest issue is probably job creation and employment job opportunities. As a young adult, I’m very aware of the need to find stable employment, and I’ll be looking at each party’s track records and plans in that area before deciding who to vote for."
++WHITE FLASH++
2. SOUNDBITE (English) Niranjan Kapasi, 89, retired journalist:
"I’m completely disillusioned the way the politics is, the way they are fleecing us. And (in the past) they came only for service but now they are not doing service to the nation, they are doing service to themselves. And more and more corruption is taking place amongst themselves."
++WHITE FLASH++
3. SOUNDBITE (English) Kuldip Chadha, 82, retired entrepreneur:
“You want to see that your children, your grandchildren, they have, you know, a very, very, basically good way of living and how they can manage and how they can progress in an honest system which should prevail in the country."
++WHITE FLASH++
4. SOUNDBITE (English) Rekha Singh, 49, entrepreneur:
“I’m a big one for the campaign of India Shining. And I believe that there are no surprises in terms of which party is really taking the country there."
++WHITE FLASH++
5. SOUNDBITE (Hindi) Raj Sud, 94, homemaker:
"I like (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi very much. Modi is working very honestly. And he is doing very good work and wants to make the whole country absolutely beautiful."
STORYLINE:
Raj Sud, 94, has voted in almost every election held in independent India, bearing witness to the eventful journey of a diverse, and now the world’s most populous, democracy over the last 76 years.

Nearly 970 million people are eligible to vote in India’s 6-week national election starting Friday and the elderly homemaker has a clear favorite in the race.

Most polls have predicted a victory for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party for a third straight five-year term.

“I like Modi very much. Modi is working honestly. And he is doing very good work and wants to make the whole country absolutely beautiful,” said Sud.

Modi is considered a champion of the country’s Hindu majority and has overseen rapid economic growth during his last two terms.

But critics say he’s also undermined India’s democracy and its status as a secular nation with attacks by Hindu nationalists against the country’s minorities and a shrinking space for dissent and free media.

For the country’s 200 million young voters, the worries lie elsewhere. According to the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy, the unemployment rate stood at more than 7% in March.

“I’m very aware of the need to find stable employment, and I’ll be looking at each party’s track records and plans in that area before deciding who to vote for,” said Manya Sachdev, 22, a student and a first-time voter.

Many of New Delhi’s urban voters say corruption, lack of good governance and inflation are issues that need immediate attention but the opposition has failed to raise them effectively.

Riven by rivalries and political defections, an alliance of opposition parties has been further crippled by a series of arrests and corruption investigations of key leaders.

Niranjan Kapasi blames the entire political class for what he called manipulating the system.

“I’m completely disillusioned the way the politics is, the way they are fleecing us,” said the 89-year-old retired journalist.

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