Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Parties vie for youth vote in Bihar

Youth, including women, who form a significant chunk of voters in Bihar, could turn to be the nucleus of the campaigns of all the major political parties in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in Bihar, though not many young leaders have been given tickets by these parties in the last two decades.

As per the final electoral roll for the LS polls, there are around 5.70 lakh first-time voters in the 18-19 age group and 1.70 crore voters below the age of 29 years in the state, which together constitute around 12.22% of the total number of voters (7.06 crore).

BJP’S Yuva Morcha has been organising a string of programmes targeting young voters in the last few months. Bhartiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) president and Bankipore MLA Nitin Nabin said initiatives like “Bihar Youth Ambassador” and ”Kamal Club” had been immensely helpful in roping in youth, especially the first-time voters and those below 25 years of age. “The BJP has focused on skill development, entrepreneurship initiatives and Mudra schemes. The number of beneficiaries under Mudra scheme in Bihar is quite big. Besides, the NDA government has done a lot for the youth after the dark era of RJD rule. The huge infrastructure development has generated jobs and hope for the future,” said Nabin, presently in-charge of Sikkim.

For chief minister Nitish Kumar too, it will be a test of impact his government’s programmes and policies have made on first-time voters. Students enrolled in class 1 when Kumar took over as Bihar CM in November 2005 have now reached the graduation stage and many of them have become voters. The JD-U hopes to reap rich dividends. “Youth have every reason to back Nitish Kumar because his government has been sensitive to their needs. Nobody in Bihar can forget the dark days when the state was known for ‘charwaha vidhyalays’ and lantern age. Today, there is students’ credit card for higher education, cycle scheme for secondary students and allowances and incentives for unemployed youth to prepare for jobs. Girls get Rs 54,000 from birth till they complete graduation,” said JD-U MLC and spokesman Neeraj Kumar.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi, in Bihar in his pre-election rally, had talked about joblessness, migration and educational slide. Now, he is showcasing his minimum income guarantee scheme as the gamechanger.

Congress MLC Premchandra Mishra said the youth would like to hear about the plans political parties have about them.

“The restlessness and disillusionment of the youth will upset all calculations that the NDA may have. Congress has already talked about guaranteed minimum income. The youth want education and jobs and they have been cheated on both counts,” he said.

“But the million dollar question is whether youth will rise above caste and creed to vote for reasons that concern them. Bihar has the highest migration of educated youth going out for higher education and uneducated and unskilled youth joining the labour market countrywide. The scenario must change, but will it?” asked Gyan Prakash, a retired government employee.

The main opposition RJD is set to play up reservation factor, unemployment and “educational slide” to convince the youth. Leader of Opposition Tejaswhi Prasad Yadav has been constantly hammering the point through his tweets.

RJD Rajya Sabha MP Manoj Jha said the LS polls in Bihar would be fought on issues that concern the masses and every effort would be made to bring them to the centre stage and not let BJP “get away with empty rhetoric”.

“Reservation and social justice have been RJD’S main plank and we will continue to work on them, as they directly affect the masses, especially the youth. Education is a big factor and it was the RJD that took the lead in getting the 13-point roster withdrawn to save SC/ST and OBCS from losing opportunities for ever in higher education. The youth of Bihar will never forget this,” he said.

First Published:
Mar 26, 2019 17:20 IST

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