New Delhi: The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) seem to have successfully tapped into the unrealized aspirations of the youth in Maharashtra and Haryana, respectively, to turn in a strong performance. Though the Congress emerged as the top performer in both states, the campaign and subsequent showing of these two regional parties capture the hope and resentment common to young voters there.
“There is a slight undercurrent of resentment against a certain kind of economic growth. For instance, in Haryana, the more you showcase Gurgaon-like development, the more you expose yourself to the question of who this growth is for. And one aspect of this issue is the local versus outsider question... There is always the question of who is getting left behind... However, I do not think we have really had any party fully capitalize on aspirational politics,” said Pratap Bhanu Mehta, president, Centre for Policy Research, a New Delhi-based think tank.
Gurgaon, a city in southern Haryana which has attracted significant global investments in the services sector, has become a symbol of both aspiration and resentment. In the week ahead of the 13 October poll, campaigns of opposition parties tried to tap into the latent desire of youth in a largely agrarian society to transition to urban lifestyles.
Exercising their franchise: Voters outside a polling booth in Mumbai on 13 October. Riding an ‘anti-outsider’ plank, Raj Thackeray’s MNS performed impressively in its debut assembly elections, winning 13 seats. Dhiraj Singh / AP
A week before assembly election in Haryana, Ranjit Singh, the defeated Congress candidate from Rania constituency, told Mint that young men complained that if they were in “service” they could get up to 50 marriage proposals. On the other hand, men who were in line to inherit large tracts of land were shut out of the matchmaking market, he added.
In Sirsa, in western Haryana which is the home base of INLD chief Om Prakash Chautala, the changing aspirations of youth were evident in new businesses. According to Pankaj Khemka, who launched Sirsa’s first multiplex a year ago, Hollywood movies are popular. A big grosser in Khemka’s Ohm Cine Garden, was a dubbed version of the Hollywood film The Transporter.
There is a gradual convergence of tastes of young Haryanvis with tastes of young elsewhere, but the possibilities Haryanvis have of fulfilling their aspirations is relatively limited, leading to frustration which is tapped by politicians.
It was a similar story in Maharashtra where riding on an “anti-outsider” plank, Raj Thackeray’s MNS performed impressively in its debut assembly elections, winning 13 seats.
In March 2006, Raj Thackeray, Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray’s nephew, broke away from the family enterprise and formed the MNS. Like the Shiv Sena, the MNS has been running a campaign against “outsiders” and migrants in the state and has modelled itself as the champion of the Marathi cause.
Haryanvi youth’s aspirations of white collar jobs when juxtaposed with the state’s underinvestment in education showed up in the form of a demand that jobs in the state be reserved for locals.
The INLD, which improved its tally from nine seats in the previous assembly to 31 seats in the recent election, had in its manifesto promised to reserve half the jobs in the state for locals. Other regional parties in Haryana such as the Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) promised to reserve up to 80% of jobs for locals.
The campaign promises of regional parties in both Haryana and Maharashtra partially capture the aspirations of the youth and their inability to realize them on account of a variety of factors.
South of Haryana, the steady migration into urban areas of Maharashtra, particularly, Mumbai, combined with growing resentment as well as aspirational needs of the local youth, successfully catapulted the MNS into a comfortable platform of fighting for their cause, and as a result, gaining electorally.
“We vote for the MNS because they fight for the Marathi cause. Why should people from outside take away our jobs?” Pramod Bhide, a voter in Mahim constituency in Mumbai, had said earlier this month.
Several voters across Mumbai and Thane echoed these sentiments.
Even before the elections, both the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party and the Shiv Sena-BJP camp had recognized the ability of the MNS to hurt them, which it ultimately did. According to experts, the MNS virtually “decimated” the Sena-BJP combine.
According to Mumbai-based psephologist and political analyst Jai Mrug, the MNS hit the Shiv Sena-BJP hard in around two dozen assembly seats, ending the Sena’s authority over the Marathi heartland in the Mumbai-Thane region.