This summer, they are not just talking about apolitical mangoes. They are discussing Sabarimala politics. They are talking if reservations are a boon or a bane. They rebel if they are not given freedom to organize protests. They work in social justice groups. Some, like Shaheen Ahmed, plan to carry on the spirit of debating and bringing about some credible change in the society.
In Kozhikode, a beach town in Kerala, college campuses are not exactly just about getting a degree, but to enter a world of ideas and inspiration. In this election, the institutions are also a platform to find out how millennial voters think. The millennials are important as they form a constituency, which is important for the future of India’s politics, the reason why every party has tried to tap the youth power with tech-savvy, cool campaigners and digital advertisements.
Ahmed is the youngest of these voters. At 18, he hails from a Muslim family, studies English literature in a Christian missionary-run college, and had to pick one out of the two Hindu leaders as his representative for Parliament—not unusual in Kerala’s syncretic culture. While he is not happy with either the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, or the opposition Congress, Ahmed prefers the Congress candidate as “he is a better bet to weed out the threat of Sangh Parivar" to minorities.
“In today’s situation, Sangh Parivar is a bigger threat than these two parties. So, in order to save the country from them, I’m inclined to support Congress as they have a better chance to form the next central government," Ahmed said. “I have serious differences with their stand, whether it is corporate corruption or religious matters like Sabarimala. We know that when Babri Masjid fell, Narasimha Rao government did nothing." he added.
If it was a local election, he would have had more choices, including supporting the local leaders of a party he now finds attractive, Welfare Party and its student outfit Fraternity Movement. The Welfare Party, primarily focusing on minority-dominated pockets, was floated by Jamaat-e-Islami Hind in 2011. It has been slowly eating into the votes of Congress and its ally Muslim League, and the Communist parties in Kerala.
It is all ominous for Left liberals. Millennials like Ahmed, who are religious, do not feel that they have been treated kindly by the Left’s politics. Like many others, including those who are drawn towards the Bharatiya Janata Party, Ahmed says the Left is on a backfoot when it comes to taking care of a religious and welfare state. “In Kerala, the traditional choice is between the Left and the Right. Beyond these two, Welfare Party has a new vision on development, one that is about a welfare nation. Besides, I am also a religious person," he said.
“An ideal politician, to my mind, will be someone focusing on development that is beneficial to the people. He should also be someone honest, who takes a progressive stand always, who commits himself to social justice, even if it contradicts his party," Ahmed said. “We need more politicians who are transparent, I have noticed that V.T. Balram (a young Congress MLA who makes provocative Facebook posts) takes a stand on issues, even if that does not always go right with his party."
Finally, he said he would choose between a party that offers personal growth and a party that offers ideological support to social justice claims. “I will pick the party that offers social justice. They need to have a perspective on issues first, growth will follow."
One young man is no sample of a generation, nor do they think alike on all issues. But in his words come alive a potential future. Whoever wins the general elections this time, the youth holds the power to break open the iron grip that traditional parties have had on voters.
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