Home / Politics / Policy /  Assembly elections: Aspirations of the young underlined

New Delhi: The increasing involvement of first-time voters and young voters in the four assembly elections prompted a change in strategy by the two main political parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress, who made specific attempts to address the growing aspirations of the young.

Both the BJP chief ministers, Shivraj Singh Chouhan of Madhya Pradesh and Raman Singh of Chhattisgarh, were rewarded by the young for bringing down poverty levels in their respective states. But the young voter refused to give another chance to Congress chief ministers Ashok Gehlot in Rajasthan and Sheila Dikshit in Delhi, punishing them for failing to meet their aspirations.

With more than 47% voters in the age group of 18-35 years in all four states, political parties made a special attempt to attract this section. The aspirations of the young were framed by the overall economic performance of the state governments. Experts say that the worst-ever performance of the Congress party in Rajasthan (23 seats) and Delhi (eight seats) came in the context of the dismal performance of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre.

While young voters in Rajasthan were satisfied with the social schemes of the Gehlot government, providing free medicines and a monthly pension, they punished it for not providing employment, good roads and drinking water, and for the rise in diesel and petrol prices.

“The Congress government in Rajasthan and Delhi suffered a major setback probably because of price rise and corruption allegations against the Congress party at the Centre. The dramatic rise of the Aam Aadmi Party indicates that if there is a viable alternative before people, which promises clean and transparent government, people are ready to vote for the new party," said Sanjay Kumar, political analyst and senior fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.

The emphatic victory of the BJP in Madhya Pradesh points to voters rewarding the state government for bringing down poverty—the proportion of population below the poverty line fell from 48.6% in 2004-05 to 31.6% in 2011-12. However, the number of people in work also came down from 403 per 1,000 in 2009-10 to 385 per 1,000 in 2011-12.

Interestingly, the percentage of people below the poverty line fell considerably in all four states—Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Delhi—but the popular social schemes of the Congress governments in Delhi and Rajasthan could not help counter the double anti-incumbency they faced.

The BJP government in Chhattisgarh managed to bring down poverty sharply as the population below the poverty line fell from 49.4% in 2004-05 to 39.9% in 2011-12, while there was an increase in the number of people employed per thousand from 419 in 2009-10 to 463 in 2011-12.

“While entitlements can be used to subdue aspirations of the people, this doesn’t always yield much result. Corruption and price rise were other major issues in the election which overtook the debate about aspirations in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh," said Badri Narayan, an Allahabad-based political analyst. “Different sections have different aspirations. While the financially weak and poor may think that right to food is an aspiration, people of the educated class might want better jobs, transparency, better roads and better administration."

Attempts by political parties to cater to this growing demand can be understood from the fact that in both the BJP-ruled states of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, the chief ministers promised loans at low interest rates to young voters to help them start their own businesses. Similarly in Rajasthan, BJP leader Vasundhara Raje also promised voters that the state government will become the guarantor for business loans taken out by youths.

Trying to copy the development of Delhi after the launch of the Metro rail there, the chief ministers and respective parties in other states too promised to start Metro rails in their state capitals and large cities. They also talked about introducing monorails.

In his political rallies in Madhya Pradesh, Chouhan said multinational companies such as Infosys Ltd and Tata Consultancy Services Ltd were planning to launch operations in the state.

“Both the Congress and BJP have used aspiration as a tool to target each other in a big way in these elections, and this strategy is going to increase in the coming Lok Sabha election," said Narayan. “While BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi was the first one to use aspirations of people, especially the young, in the election through his development agenda, the Congress has been a late starter. Modi is all about aspirations. People believe that what he achieved in Gujarat will be replicated all over the nation if he comes to power, which has benefited his party."

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