The rural hinterland of Haryana has been a hotbed of dynastic politics, but its seems to be undergoing a passive transition. In a state, where legacies of former chief ministers resonate across villages, the young voters are looking beyond.
Shahrukh, 21, from Peeranwali village in Hisar, says he would vote for a national leader who can represent the country at the world stage. “He should have the personality to be our leader," said Khan, a graduate preparing for non-technical jobs in the Indian Railways, as his father, Roshan Khan, 51, who has voted for one party all his life, looked on. “Yuva ki ab alag soch hai (the young think differently)," he added.
Hisar is a bastion of Haryana’s three-time chief minister, Bhajan Lal. The locals still recall anecdotes of how the political stalwart had provided job opportunities to people of the 36 biradris (castes).
“Even if an illiterate candidate came for the post of conductor, he would say: “Koi na laga de. Agar ticket kaatni na aawe, to paadni to aawe hai (If he does not know how to punch tickets, at least he knows how to tear them off)," said Roshan Khan, 51, a farmer whose family has been voting for the Bhajan Lal clan since four decades.
The support for political families is deeply rooted and the legacies of political scions, such as former chief ministers Bhajan Lal, Bansi Lal and Devi Lal, are omnipresent. But the narrative has begun to change among the youth.
Sandeep Kangra, 24, from Hisar, who has a post-graduate degree in computer applications, said: “The government schools are in a shabby state. Education has never been a priority with the leaders. They are more focused on building statues."
Out of the total 18 million voters, at least 51% are below the age of 39 years. As descendants of political stalwarts enter the fray this election, it is the young voters that they are trying to win over.
Dushyant Chautala, the youngest parliamentarian from the state and the grandson of five-time chief minister Om Prakash Chautala, who won his first election at 26, too, has set out on a new path, after breaking away from the INLD.
“We have already broken the mould, when we contested the Jind by-elections alone. We are no longer an old traditional, rural party," said Chautala. He, however, added that the legacy of his great grandfather, Chaudhary Devi Lal, remains intact. The party has given seven seats to candidates below the age of 40 in its first election.
Chautala is contesting against 26-year-old Bhavya Bishnoi, who is the son of MLA Kuldeep Bishnoi, and grandson of Bhajan Lal. He has an MSc degree from the University of Oxford and is contesting his first election.
One of the three Jat dominated seats from Haryana, Hisar is set to witness one of the most keenly watched contests in the state.
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