Akansha Majumdar, 20, a student and first-time voter, on Jadavpur University campus ahead of India's general elections, in Kolkata. Image Credit: REUTERS

NEW DELHI: For 20-year-old Roushan Kumar, who sells flowers for a living in India’s eastern state of West Bengal, more jobs and better education are priorities. And the first-time voter wants to pick a government that will provide just that.

India’s election starting on Friday is the world’s largest electoral exercise with more than 18 million people voting for the first time.

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While polls project Prime Minister Narendra Modi will win a third term, new voters like Kumar are determined to make their voices count.

Asma Hamad Shaikh, 23, a teacher and first-time voter, poses for a photograph in Dharavi in Mumbai. "I believe that everyone should be educated, illiteracy should be wiped out completely. I hope with a change of government the caste system can be abolished," said Asma Hamad Shaikh during an interview with Reuters. "I see a lot of fights between Hindus and Muslims, I didn’t see this division growing up. It’s only in the last few years that it is become a lot." Image Credit: Reuters

“I will vote for a party that works for development in education. I will vote for a party that will provide employment so that there are jobs,” Kumar, a Modi supporter, told Reuters.

Kumar’s priorities match many his age. Rising tensions between religious groups, inflation and lack of jobs were the top concerns emerging from Modi’s decade-long rule, according to a survey of 1,290 first-time voters in New Delhi by pollsters CSDS-Lokniti.

Nearly two-thirds of those polled said they would vote for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party given the government’s strong record of economic growth.

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Akansha Majumdar, a 20-year-old engineering student in West Bengal’s said India’s government needs to eradicate illiteracy and provide job security.

To tap into such disenchantment, India’s main opposition Congress has promised paid apprenticeships. Modi’s party manifesto also focuses on creating jobs.

Beyond jobs and rising costs, communal harmony is another priority for many young voters.

Delhi-based laptop repairer Mohammad Aijaz Ansari, 19, said fighting in the “name of religion” is everywhere and should not happen. He will vote for the Aam Aadmi Party, or Common Person’s Party, a Congress ally.