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Climate change least of concerns for Indian voters

Even though, India's election commission is working towards holding a “green election” with plastic-free polling in Kerala, major political parties in the country do not have climate change action plan as revealed by an election manifesto review.

EPN Desk14 May 2024 11:39

Climate change least of concerns for Indian voters

Indians are being affected by climate change disasters, prolonged heatwaves, flash floods, drought, agricultural devastation and landslides, yet these are not the agendas for which they are voting this election.

Even though, India's election commission is working towards holding a “green election” with plastic-free polling in Kerala, major political parties in the country do not have climate change action plan as revealed by an election manifesto review.

The review of the election manifestos revealed that, except for the regional party Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), none of the major political parties in India have concrete grassroots-level plans to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Voters have more pressing issues at hand like unemployment and inflation, with little concern for climate change. The CSDS-Lokniti 2024 pre-poll survey indicates that Indian voters are primarily concerned with unemployment and inflation.

Despite climate change influencing wild animal encroachment into human settlements and Western Ghats region being a climate change hotspot, environmental concerns have minimal impact on electoral politics. In comparison, Europe, sees climate change as a top priority, with green parties gaining support. 

Although, in India, extreme temperatures are influencing voter perceptions of candidates during campaigning, the country has a long way to see 'climate voters' in its electoral landscape.

In the Wayanad constituency where Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is contesting, human-wildlife conflicts have already become a hot electoral issue.

In forest-adjoining areas throughout the country, wild animals continue to enter human settlements and cause damage. This is mostly caused by food and water shortages in summer and alterations in wildlife habitats because of climate change.

In Lok Sabha constituencies in the Western Ghats, the environmental concerns hardly influence electoral politics, despite the fact that the daily lives of people in those regions are closely intertwined with nature.

The inhabitants of the Western Ghats, which is identified as one of the world's eight 'hottest hotspots' of biological diversity, managed to win a Lok Sabha seat in the 2014 election with the support of Left parties and succeeded in stopping the committee's pro-environment recommendations from being implemented.

Even though the Western Ghats suffers from landslides and agricultural loss, the electoral politics of the region largely revolve around conventional issues.

In comparison, in a poll conducted in 18 countries in Europe, which votes in early June to elect the next European Parliament, 52 per cent of voters prioritize the fight against climate change over other issues.

The so-called climate voters in Europe are mostly young people. One of the hot topics during elections is the European Green Deal, which aims to make the continent climate-neutral by 2050.

However, Indian democracy is yet to have a new category of 'climate voters' as its electoral landscape is still conservative with practically very little space for environmental politics or green agendas. 

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