KANPUR : Apurva Srivastava, 24, believes that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a change maker who has helped the country move ahead by introducing key reforms and policies. She expects him to create more jobs by bringing corporates to Kanpur, the largest industrial city in Uttar Pradesh, if he returns to power. “There are no jobs here for a biotech graduate like me. The government should create more opportunities for youth across the country and there should be no quota," she said.

Srivastava, who works in Gurugram on the outskirts of Delhi, was in her hometown, shopping at the recently-opened, Chinese low-cost retail store Miniso in Z Square Mall. The mall, the city’s biggest, houses international brands, including Hamley’s, Marks & Spencer and Calvin Klein, and is a reflection of the growing aspirations of the city’s population. On a laid-back Sunday afternoon, the mall was packed with students, first jobbers and millennials who spoke passionately about the future leadership of the country and the issues that matter to them.

Lack of jobs dominated the conversation, followed by better education, development, and a ubiquitous desire for a corruption-free India.

Raunak Khurana, 20, who works at a McDonald’s outlet, said the uncertainty in the job sector bothers him the most. He has applied for a job in the merchant navy and wants to upgrade his skills by enrolling in a computer language course. A Samajwadi Party (SP) supporter, Khurana wants the new government to create more opportunities, especially, in small cities.

Ayesha Bano, 23, a sales executive at Globus, a store in the mall, agreed that jobs are a problem and the salary scales are low. “There is an oversupply of candidates. People with master’s degrees are also working with me as salespersons. It’s sad," said Bano, who is interested in politics. She thinks an ideal leader should be like SP president Akhilesh Yadav. “Woh young leader hain aur humari problems ko samajhte hain, SP party sab mazhabon ko saath lekar bhi chalti hai (Yadav is a young leader who understands the hardships of the country’s youth. As a party, SP respects all religions)," she said.

Clearly, the emerging set of young voters is looking for accountability from their leaders and will pledge their loyalty based on the work that a candidate does.

Nearly 15 million first-time voters will exercise their franchise in the seven-phase elections, according to the EC.

The Modi government prides itself in giving a boost to entrepreneurship through schemes such as Mudra Loans and Startup India, but young entrepreneurs highlight how red-tapism in the state leaves much to be desired.

“Red-tapism and corruption in the UP government is high. We took 17 licences to set up a food processing unit and every officer asked for bribe," said Jayant Chaturvedi, 28, who runs an organic food company, Vikalp Agro Products Pvt. Ltd, which sells organic spices and products through WhatsApp.

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