New Delhi: With an eye on the 2019 general election, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday urged Indians who will be turning 18 in 2018 to become active participants in the country’s development narrative.
In his last radio address of 2017 to the nation, Modi focused on “New India voters" who, he said,would prove to be the strongest instruments in bringing about a paradigm shift in India’s growth strategy.
“All those born in 2000 will turn 18 in 2018. New India’s youth will be instrumental in ensuring that India will be free of all caste and class divides, on our road to progress. They will decide the course of change in this country and for that it is imperative for them to register as voters so that they can drive change in this democracy," Modi said in his Mann Ki Baat address.
Modi also called for the staging of “Mock Parliaments" in the country in which the young “would come together before 15 August 2018 to deliberate on how best to move forward to fulfil all pledges before 2022."
A string of state elections are due to take place in 2018 ahead of the 2019 general election. Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are among the states set to go to the polls in 2018.
“Nothing new has been specified (in Modi’s speech) and this is not a model of participatory democracy. PM Modi mentioned no specifics of how the youth must participate. This was not a well orchestrated speech, but one delivered to appeal to all sections before the assembly polls and general elections," said Subrata Mukherjee, a former professor of political science at Delhi University.
With the Lok Sabha signing off on a law which criminalizes the practice of instant triple talaq on Thursday, Modi used his radio address to champion the cause of Muslim women, scrapping the mandatory requirement for women to travel with a male guardian on the Haj pilgrimage.
“This restriction has been going on for long and now the government has paid attention to it and has scrapped the rule. Nearly 1,300 women have applied now to go to Haj without a male guardian and I have urged the ministry of minority affairs to exempt the women from the lottery system and extend all possible help and support to them for the pilgrimage," Modi added in his address.
With the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) completing 50 years in 2017 and India celebrating 25 years of partnership with the grouping, Modi also added that the Republic Day celebration on 26 January would for the first time witness all 10 Asean leaders in attendance as chief guests.