Can Rahul Gandhi change India

India elects a new parliamentThe greatest choice in the world

Rajni Kumar, 20 years old, daughter of a day laborer. She is the first in her family to be able to read and write.

Manvender Chauhar, 21, a student from the state of Bihar in eastern India, will soon start a job at Amazon India.

Vaadya Raina, the young feminist studies in the capital Delhi and wants to change the image of women in the country.

And Riza Madi from Kashmir, who will not vote in protest because India is not his country from his point of view.

Four potential first-time voters out of nearly 84 million in India. Since the last elections five years ago, there have been about as many new voters as Germany has inhabitants. Nowhere else in the world do so many young people live as in India. The first-time voters are a popular target group for politicians in the election campaign.

Guaranteed forgery-proof? - The electronic voting machines in Ahmedabad, the fifth largest city in India. (Reuters)

With this rap song, the ruling party BJP tries to woo the young voices on all social media channels.

On the JNU campus, one of the most renowned universities in New Delhi, the language student watches the campaign video and smiles:

"Rap is all the rage here and yes, the party is taking advantage of that. But honestly, we won't let that fool us. Just because you rap doesn't mean that you know how to run a country can. "

The feeling of still being locked in as a woman

Vaadya wears jeans, a T-shirt and large black glasses. In the JNU cafeteria, in the middle of the capital of India, she doesn't stand out. In the country, however, her outfit would cause a stir. A Western style of clothing, as politicians still say in public today, contributes to the fact that young women in India are raped. The 20-year-old hardly goes outside in the dark, most of the time she just stays with her friends on the university campus. She lives there in a dormitory. In the 21st century, as a woman, she feels like she's still locked in:

"India has to change its view of the role of women. Otherwise we will not be able to advance our country. The current image of women must urgently change."

Even if Indian law provides for equality between men and women, tradition does not. Boys are still preferred, and girls are a burden for many parents. Last year the Indian government had to admit that two million girls are missing in the country every year: either they are aborted, murdered after childbirth or they die of neglect. Even today some girls in the country bear the name Nakushi, which translated means something like: unpleasant or unwanted. This does not apply at all to Vaadya, her mother was very happy to have a daughter. But Vaadya has become a feminist because she wants what she and her mother had to go through never to repeat itself.

Vaadya Raina wants to stand up for the rights of women in India. A country in which the role of women is as retrograde as here cannot develop well. (Silke Diettrich, ARD New Delhi)

"When my father died, my mother was forced by her family to marry another man so that the child would have a father. She wanted to raise me alone, but that's not possible from our society's point of view. And this new man, the she had to marry, then sexually abused me. It was just not a good idea that she was being forced into it. "

Although around 430 million Indian women are allowed to vote in the elections and more women than men voted in the last regional elections, the role of women in the major parties is not an issue at all. With Indira Gandhi, India already had a prime minister in the 1960s, when, for example, wives in Germany still had to ask their husbands for permission to go to work. But Indira Gandhi came from a very influential family of politicians. Today women are an exception in the Indian parliament, they make up 12% percent there.

The village of Shobhapur is only around 50 km from the capital Delhi. However, it feels like traveling back in time. The farmers plow their fields with oxen. Women go to the village well to fetch water. Rajni Kumar quickly throws a colorful cloth over her head before she leaves the house. She is on her way to the polling station, for the very first time she is allowed to cast her vote.

"I'm a little excited, but it feels super good."

The fans rattle inside at 40 degrees in the shade.

First time election worker

"This is my first time doing this." she calls out to the voluntary election workers, who then briefly explain the machine to her. There are 15 buttons, next to them are photos of the candidates and - more importantly - the symbols of the parties. Everyone in India knows them: the lotus blossom, the elephant, the bicycle, the hand or the bow and arrow. So Rajni's parents can also vote. The mother is a housewife and cannot read, her father works as a day laborer in the fields. He can barely write his name.

Rajni is beaming, her voice is in the digital box. She pressed the button with the lotus flower, the symbol for the ruling BJP party. The people in her village can see and feel the progress that it has brought, she says. The alleys, which had previously turned into mud paths with every monsoon, are now tarred. And almost every household has its own toilet, says Rajni, scurrying across the yard and proudly showing the new bathroom:

"We built in a western toilet so that it was easier for my grandmother. The government gave us money and we also paid something on top of it."

Rajni wants to work in the future to ensure that women get more education in their country. Her parents can neither read nor write, she wants to become a teacher. (Silke Diettrich, ARD New Delhi)

That was one of Prime Minister Modi's great goals. After his five-year term in office, no longer should Indians have to do their business behind bushes or in fields. The government has given each household the equivalent of around 150 euros to enable toilets to be built. In 2011 only a third of all Indians had the opportunity to go to the toilet. Critics accuse the government of improving the statistics. Even if toilets have been built, they are by no means all used. Some of the houses would be converted into storage rooms.

While the birds circled in the sky in Rajnis village on election day, the helicopters thunder over Riza's head. The young Muslim lives in Kashmir. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers are already stationed in his region. There are even more on election days. The highest level of alert applies. For decades, the people of Kashmir have wanted their independence. Many demand them by force. Eighteen-year-old Riza can also imagine being a martyr in the grave one day.

"I have thought hundreds of times about going into jihad. But I am not afraid of dying, everyone has to die one day. Still, my parents say the time is not yet right."

With stones on soldiers

Riza is studying economics, but the seminars are regularly canceled. For years, the separatists have been staging general strikes in the region to force the Indian government to negotiate with the Kashmiris. He only knows his life as a state of emergency, says Riza. The snow-capped mountains or the white blossoms on the apricot trees, which he has often only seen through barbed wire for 18 years. While in other parts of India people stand in line for hours, in Srinagar the street dogs loll around in the middle of the intersection. The Indian elections are not his choices. He wants Kashmir to become independent, says Riza. India is an occupying power, soldiers and paramilitaries are arresting him and his friends indiscriminately.

"They have beaten me many times, even in the middle of the street. Once they even broke my arm just because I was carrying a flag with the name of our prophet Mohammed written on it."

Riza Madi lives in Kashmir and does not vote in protest. Like many other Kashmiris, he calls for his region to become independent. India is not his country. (Silke Diettrich, ARD New Delhi)

He doesn't believe in Indian democracy, instead he has thrown stones at the soldiers several times. In his opinion the only chance to take revenge and to draw attention to the situation of the people in Kashmir. India itself is constantly overriding democracy here, says Riza. The United Nations published a report last year, which also accused Indian soldiers of violating human rights. Because in Kashmir laws apply that are not applied elsewhere in India. In order to ensure the so-called "protection of the public", police officers can simply take people into custody without holding anything. For some years now, soldiers have been using shotgun projectiles to defend themselves against stone throwers like Riza. However, children and women are already blind. During the elections, too, many stones were thrown by the insurgents or shots were fired by the security forces. This time it remained relatively calm, with more soldiers than voters standing on the streets of the capital Srinagar. A mere 13 percent of those eligible to vote here cast their votes. Even if the elections hardly play a role for the people of Kashmir, their region and thus also the conflict with the archenemy Pakistan plays an extraordinary role in the Indian election campaign. Especially for the incumbent Prime Minister Modi, who is running again for election:

"It's just in my nature. I will take revenge and will kill every single terrorist. The mission is to serve my country."

Narendra Modi is a role model for many young people

Modi's life is politics. He comes from a poor family. As a child he had sold tea. Today he rules a country that is home to more than 1.3 billion people. This also impresses Manvender Chauhan. The 21-year-old from the state of Bihar, in the east of India, is about to finish his bachelor's degree. For the time after that, he already has a coveted contract with the US company Amazon in his pocket. Manvender lost his father at an early age, and he too pushed himself upstairs without the help of his family. And that's exactly why Narendra Modi is a role model for many young people in India. A country in which the caste system did not allow ascent for centuries and in which only one family had the say in politics for decades: the Gandhis. Which, however, are not related to the famous Mahatma Gandhi. The Congress Party is again fully relying on the family bonus in the upcoming elections. Rahul Gandhi is the head of the opposition party. His great-grandfather Nehru, his grandmother Indira Gandhi and his father Rajiv were prime ministers in India. The young Rahul had long hesitated to follow in their footsteps:

"I had to see my grandmother and father being murdered. I had to see how the political system destroyed people I love."

Modi's competitor - opposition leader Rahul Gandhi, President of the Congress Party, with his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in Kerala state after signing his nomination papers for the election. (Reuters)

Rahul Gandhi studied in the USA, worked in London, is unmarried and has friends from abroad. Many young and modern Indians could identify with this as well. But the offspring of the Gandhi family does not enjoy a particularly good reputation. So it was easy for the ruling party to give him the nickname "Pappu", which means something like: stupid little boy, even if Rahul Gandhi is already approaching 50. Mavender also scoffs at him:

"The only thing that Rahul Gandhi has achieved in his life is that he was born into the right family. Everyone has to work their way up in a party; he didn't have to."

Manvender Chauhan, a student from Bihar State, says education in India needs to be improved to be more competitive worldwide. (Silke Diettrich, ARD New Delhi)

The rulers in parliament are on average 65 years old. The people in India, however, have an average age of 26 years. Youthfulness is a huge challenge for the country. One million young people enter the labor market every month. Last year the Indian railway advertised jobs - the company is one of the largest employers in the country. 28 million people have applied for these jobs. According to studies, India would have to train around 100 million young people in the next few years. The country would need at least 1,000 new universities and around 50,000 colleges. Manvender has received a place at a renowned university in Delhi and has surpassed millions of competitors with tough entrance exams:

"Even when I choose modes, especially when it comes to education and universities, not much has happened. I expected more, but nothing happened in that area."

However, the government under Narendra Modi has drastically cut spending on higher education in the country. Experts assume that currently less than 17 percent of university graduates are also fit for the job market. The number of unemployed in the country is higher than it has been in forty years.

Graffiti by the icon Che Guevara on the left

On the walls of the JNU cafeteria, the students have sprayed graffiti of the left-wing icon Che Guevara everywhere. In between, Vaadya, the young feminist, drinks her tea. She is very concerned that the ruling BJP could be re-elected. She says the Hindu nationalists are fundamentally changing their country and that under Modi's government secular India has moved quite far to the right.

Likenesses of Che Guevara hang everywhere on the walls of JN University in Delhi. Many students have the feeling that the democracy of India is in danger under the ruling party BJP (Silke Diettrich, ARD New Delhi)

"You talk about a tolerant India, but how tolerant are you yourself? These BJP politicians don't argue with others, and we believe in the constitution. They don't."

In the campaign song, the artists rap about what Prime Minister Modi has achieved in recent years. Almost everyone now has electricity, toilets and corruption has fallen sharply. Mavender firmly believes his country is on the right track. Worldwide, India has become the most important partner in South Asia:

"The world is behind us. Modi is in the best possible position diplomatically. He has invested a lot of time in portraying India in a good light, so that most of the western countries are on our side."

Rajni, the daughter of the field worker, is also looking to the future with optimism. She wants to become a teacher, a job her parents would never have dared dream of.

"All of my friends are studying or doing an apprenticeship and our parents support us. They want their daughters to be independent."

Business student Riza firmly believes in his dream that one day Kashmir will be independent. However this wish may come true.

"Everyone in Kashmir has hope in them. We're tired of it, too many people have died."

Many of the millennials in India have enough self-confidence to face the challenges in their country. They are tired of being marginalized by veteran politicians. India's youth are looking for their chance. Whoever will lead the next government, the expectations of the young Indians are high.