Narendra Modi
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Small town youth are politically more active on Facebook, like pro-Modi pages, share pro-Modi content and defend any attacks on him.

Four years after Narendra Modi stormed the hustings with unprecedented support from first-time voters, there is much speculation about whether he has sustained his charm among the youth ahead of the upcoming 2019 general election.

I have spent the last year doing field research for my forthcoming book on Indian millennials, speaking to hundreds of young Indians across big cities and small towns. While my respondents cut across socio-economic lines, I found one common trend: 2014 was about the promise of “acche din”, and 2019 is likely to be about personality instead of policy.

“Modi has never cared about being popular or well-liked. If he did, he would never have become the chief minister of Gujarat or the Prime Minister of India. He only cares about the country, and he doesn’t mind antagonising his own vote base to make India more prosperous,” a young Modi supporter from Indore said. He belonged to a merchant family who lost significant revenue after demonetisation and the flawed GST implementation.

According to figures released by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, youth turnout in 2009 was a paltry 54 per cent, four points lower than the national average. In 2014, it rose to 68 per cent and was two points higher than the national average. Of these young voters, the BJP’s vote share was 34.4 per cent, three points higher than its national average of 31.1 per cent. Young voters were the BJP’s largest voting bloc.

Millennials— those between the age of 20 and 35— are one of India’s largest distinct generation. Estimated to number 400 million, they are a third of the country’s population, and almost half its workforce. They are first and second-time voters, and in many ways, they are the ‘swing voters’ every party will be looking to win over in the next general election.

My respondents were from all over the country with a particular focus in Tier 2 and 3 cities.

‘Anti-corruption’ and ‘decisive’ were the most common words the millennials used about Modi. Millennials in bigger cities had mixed feelings about Modi, blaming him for the increase in hate crimes and polarisation. The young respondents in small towns were politically active on Facebook, had liked pro-Modi pages and regularly shared pro-Modi content on social media. They identified personally with him and experienced a big urge to defend any attacks on him. Many younger men in these smaller cities were also members of pro-Modi WhatsApp groups, which were hubs of pro-BJP propaganda and fake news.

After 10 years of Congress government, many young Indians did not find former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s leadership aspirational and wanted a complete reboot. UPA II’s litany of corruption scandals and the slowing economy did not help much either.

In Modi, young Indians saw a saviour who gets things done. His personal story—the son of a tea seller who rose to become a chief minister, regularly publicised by himself and the BJP—was hailed as an ‘Indian Dream’ success story. Modi was a refreshing break from the status quo.

Many young small towners continue to see themselves in Modi due to his outsider status in Delhi, and his use of Hindi instead of English.

While elites in New Delhi and Mumbai dismiss his surgical strikes and rhetoric against Pakistan as mere talking points, they resonate in the Hindi hinterland— especially his appeal as a strongman and a leader who doesn’t bend down to Pakistan.

Although demonetisation is acknowledged by most millennials as a failed policy, many still support it as a crackdown on corruption and black money. ‘It hurt me, but it hurt the rich guys even more’ was the dominant sentiment. Demonetisation was seen as an example of bold decision-making. As the top 1 per cent continues to amass more wealth and power in the country, Modi is seen as one of the few remaining leaders who will put an end to entrenched corruption.

The young today are looking for leaders who don’t back down. Ever since 2013, when he proclaimed he doesn’t want to become the Prime Minister, but the ‘chowkidar’ of Indians, Modi’s campaign speeches never fail to include his desire to protect Indians from enemies foreign and domestic.

Indian millennials value action and strong leadership, and Modi gives them both. Of course, there were communal undertones to a lot of the responses I heard. He shows Muslims their ‘place’ and is reviving Hindu culture, is something many said.

As millions of millennials face severe unemployment in smaller cities and the countryside – a result of massive labour supply but total lack of demand – they are turning towards Hindu nationalism and conservatism. The abundance of free time and lack of avenues to engage in productive activity leads them to blame ‘others’ – usually Muslims or Dalits – for endangering their culture and opportunities. This segment of his younger Hindu base views Modi’s controversial handling of the 2002 Godhra riots as a positive attribute.

What I found most interesting was the fact that most millennials I interviewed could not tell me about any specific Modi policy or proposal that they supported or cheered. It was almost like his policies did not matter. I even broke the journalistic code by asking leading questions with specific policies, such as ‘Make in India’ or ‘Swachh Bharat’, but I never got any enthusiastic response.

To millennials, personality matters more than policy. Modi is more of a father-like figure leading an economic and social revival in the country, even though the benefits might not be felt by everyone.

Vivan Marwaha is the author of a forthcoming book on Indian millennials. He is a graduate in international relations from Claremont McKenna College, and has worked with the American Enterprise Institute in Washington DC, and the Observer Research Foundation in Delhi. His Twitter handle is @VivanMarwaha

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13 Comments Share Your Views

13 COMMENTS

  1. Very important blog if we talk about the PM policy one of the best scheme of the MP government MP berojgari bhatta it helps all MP youth to get some relief from the unemployment you can also get the benefit of this scheme for more information you can visit our website mp rojgar bhatta

  2. This is a clear failure of Nehruvian education. We have raised generations more concerned with form than content. If anything, Modi was indeed right wrt his Nehru criticism.

  3. Dear Author,
    Please come to my village,I will show how much successful swach Bharat mission has been in last 4 years.How ease of access to electricity has improved in last years.How road has been built in my remote village.
    But I highly doubtful u will ever go to my village.
    Problem with lutenyns is they still think they are more smarter than rest of bharat.

    Regards
    rohit

  4. Millenials are smart and well informed; given the easy access to information. 2019 will be a mandate driven a mix of personality and realism that delivering “achhe din” to over a billion people will take more than 5 years.

  5. Prof PK Sharma,Freelance Journalist,Barnala(Punjab)

    Mr Vivan Marwaha ‘s piece ” For Indian Millenials,2019…… Modi’s Personality, Not Policy ” reflects 2014 Lok Sabha Polls flash back trend when Modi spell bound Indian voters of all categories with his art of theatrics, rhetorics, ploys and eloquence !

    Ironically, now NaMo stands very badly exposed and question of his befooling the masses once again does not arise !

    Paradoxically, how the writer claims : To millennials, personality matters more than policy ?

    It will be wrong to conclude that in 2014 he met success because of his personality ? There were two factors which worked in his favour then ! First of all, it was negative vote in wake of UPA Two Scam Tainted Term . Secondly, very sharp division of anti-BJP vote bank !

    At present, odds are very bitterly against NaMo because of erosion of credibility and public trust deficit belonging to all sections and classes of society ! He can now be father-like figure for blind followers belonging to a small chunk of demographic dividend group !

    Had millennials not bothered about the policy how had BJP to suffer humiliation in Gorakhpur, Phulpur and Kairana Lok Sabha
    Bypolls this year ! Did not Modi personality if any elope and banish into the air ? Amazingly, Chief Minister UP Yogi Aditya Nath and his Deputy Keshav P.Maurya despite being in power could not ensure win for BJP candidates in their bastions ! Why Modi leading an economic and social revival in the country had to face the music in these three Prestigious UP Lok Sabha by elections this year?

    Why Modi personality failed to win in Lok Sabha By-Polls in Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Assembly By-Polls in many states of the country ?

    Mr. Marwaha should not overlook and forget that there is a hell of difference between 2014 and 2019 ! There is a big gap in theory and
    practice so far as Mr Marwaha’s analysis pertaining to 2019 Lok Sabha Polls is concerned !

    The policy will certainly matter in 2019 ! Had personality mattered in India’s electoral politics Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee – a celebrated
    personality in 2004 Lok Sabha Polls should not have been humbled ? In comparison to Vajpayee’s personality, NaMo falls no where
    near him in any regard ! NaMo’s win in 2014 was a product of chance not “personality” !

    Prof PK Sharma,Freelance Journalist
    Pom Anm Nest,Barnala (Punjab)

  6. Hello Author,

    Had to make some correction on the last comment as it seemed after reading my own writing that i hadn’t pointed out directly on many points that had been mentioned in your article and it seemed much more like a rant.Hence please ignore the previous comment and read the current one.
    1. Small town youth are politically more active on Facebook, like pro-Modi pages, share pro-Modi content and defend any attacks on him. —- No not really everyone is actively supporting PM Modi from the Elederly to poor from Tier 1 city to the villages p.n (I come from Mumbai and most of us view PM Modi to be a wonderful politician and leader)

    2. Four years after Narendra Modi stormed the hustings with unprecedented support from first-time voters, there is much speculation about whether he has sustained his charm among the youth ahead of the upcoming 2019 general election. ——- These questions have been only doing the rounds as of late due to the coming general elections in 2019

    3.I have spent the last year doing field research for my forthcoming book on Indian millennials, speaking to hundreds of young Indians across big cities and small towns. While my respondents cut across socio-economic lines, I found one common trend: 2014 was about the promise of “acche din”, and 2019 is likely to be about personality instead of policy. ——— I dont know whom,where and how you have spoked to hundreds of young Indians in cities or towns– We believe from 2014 our acche din had already begun albiet some setbacks as expected by the size of our country and diversity-going through a what one can call”dumping”.(Dumping-old reforms,outdated ideas,eradication of corruption and promotion of better life)

    4.“Modi has never cared about being popular or well-liked. If he did, he would never have become the chief minister of Gujarat or the Prime Minister of India. He only cares about the country, and he doesn’t mind antagonising his own vote base to make India more prosperous,” a young Modi supporter from Indore said. He belonged to a merchant family who lost significant revenue after demonetisation and the flawed GST implementation.—– The point where one mentions that PM Modi does not care about being popular or well liked. First of all one can see from the evident lifestyle of Mr.Modi that he is a man of simple means. There was no need to mentioned that this guy belonged to a merchant family and had lost revenue due to demonetisation and gst implementation and as you had you should have mentioned whether his family owned business was listed or not and how demonetisation and gst effected it. A country going to a total swipe or great change generally goes through such phases .But once the initial phase of shock is over business again runs smooth.

    5.According to figures released by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, youth turnout in 2009 was a paltry 54 per cent, four points lower than the national average. In 2014, it rose to 68 per cent and was two points higher than the national average. Of these young voters, the BJP’s vote share was 34.4 per cent, three points higher than its national average of 31.1 per cent. Young voters were the BJP’s largest voting bloc.— Young and old alike vote for BJP

    6.Millennials— those between the age of 20 and 35— are one of India’s largest distinct generation. Estimated to number 400 million, they are a third of the country’s population, and almost half its workforce. They are first and second-time voters, and in many ways, they are the ‘swing voters’ every party will be looking to win over in the next general election.

    My respondents were from all over the country with a particular focus in Tier 2 and 3 cities.

    ‘Anti-corruption’ and ‘decisive’ were the most common words the millennials used about Modi. Millennials in bigger cities had mixed feelings about Modi, blaming him for the increase in hate crimes and polarization.( These hate crimes had been there before as well,but now only are being sensationalized by selective sources with ulterior motives to show that the government is incompetent.It should be observed that a good government might not always produce responsible citizens,ultimately it falls on the citizens to not promote hate crimes/or involve in such activities and aim to become more responsible.
    7. The young respondents in small towns were politically active on Facebook, had liked pro-Modi pages and regularly shared pro-Modi content on social media. They identified personally with him and experienced a big urge to defend any attacks on him. Many younger men in these smaller cities were also members of pro-Modi WhatsApp groups, which were hubs of pro-BJP propaganda and fake news(this is in light of recent news doing the rounds on Internet as Whatsapp was told to monitor their content sharing and monitor fake news-you are twisting words here by involving bjp- these were fake news related to lynching. Please take lynching as a atrocity and do not blame it on the government as people are responsible for such actions not the government.

    8.After 10 years of Congress government, many young Indians did not find former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s leadership aspirational and wanted a complete reboot. UPA II’s litany of corruption scandals and the slowing economy did not help much either.—– Mr.Manmohan Singh was rather as evident a close ally of Sonia Gandhi and though a able leader and man in posession of an intelligent mind & sentimentality choose to aid and support congress for personal gains or out of fear

    9.In Modi, young Indians saw a saviour( the app word would be leader and a able politician) who gets things done. His personal story—the son of a tea seller who rose to become a chief minister, regularly publicised by himself and the BJP—was hailed as an ‘Indian Dream’ success story. (He served for the bjp for many years since the time of Independence)Modi was a refreshing break from the status quo.

    10.Many young small townees continue to see themselves in Modi due to his outsider status in Delhi, and his use of Hindi instead of English.(PM Modi does not use Hindi due to any of those underlying tone that is subtly mentioned here.He uses it as an example taken from many countries like Russia,Japan,China,etc who are proud of themselves-” You are revered as you revere yourself “. If one speaks in ones Mother tongue or the recognized language of Indians its easier for the masses to understand what he says and asserts that we are proud of the place where we come from).

    11.While elites in New Delhi and Mumbai dismiss his surgical strikes and rhetoric against Pakistan as mere talking points, they resonate in the Hindi hinterland— especially his appeal as a strongman and a leader who doesn’t bend down to Pakistan.——–(Lol if you excuse me, who are these elites? If i must say here you are wrongly disillusioned -every person in India know about the tiff between Pakistan and India and due to recent occurences we are rather appreciating that India was able to take a stand and go ahead with surgical strikes-even United States was also one of the nations that supported this act).India is a land of diverse religions , but at core we are Indians first.Hence any Indian who is proud of their nation will always support actions taken for the betterment of the country and to secure itself.

    12.Although demonetisation is acknowledged by most millennials as a failed policy,( No many appreciated it even though there were some setbacks only person that think demonetisation was a failed policy are the oppositon-who by the way had a fear of loosing their personal assets abroad during this time and had to fly out if you check the report given by news paper) many still support it as a crackdown on corruption and black money. ‘It hurt me, but it hurt the rich guys even more’ was the dominant sentiment. Demonetisation was seen as an example of bold decision-making. As the top 1 per cent continues to amass more wealth and power in the country, Modi is seen as one of the few remaining leaders who will put an end to entrenched corruption.

    The young today are looking for leaders who don’t back down. Ever since 2013, when he proclaimed he doesn’t want to become the Prime Minister, but the ‘chowkidar’ of Indians, Modi’s campaign speeches never fail to include his desire to protect Indians from enemies (competitors)foreign and domestic.

    14.Indian millennials value action and strong leadership, and Modi gives them both. Of course, there were communal undertones to a lot of the responses I heard. He shows Muslims their ‘place’ and is reviving Hindu culture, is something many said.(I dont know what reports or who you have spoken to ,He does not show Muslims their place he just potrays how one should respect all religion and I can state that there have been recent crack downs on various Religional institutes due to propagating violence in name of god and atrocities such as rape and abuse going on in such institutes. It is necessary that all religion be treated equally before law.As in usa it is not allowed to wear burkha and even though people protest the law hasnt been removed same in india we aim to achieve that irrespective of any religion we are humans first and if human rights are violated and pose as a threat to a nation then religion in that context has to be sidelined .https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/kerala-wahhabism-madrasas-isis-saudi-arabia-1131272-2018-01-10,https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/national-commission-of-women-wants-to-abolish-practice-of-confessions-in-church-1890561

    15.As millions of millennials face severe unemployment in smaller cities and the countryside – a result of massive labour supply but total lack of demand – they are turning towards Hindu nationalism and conservatism. The abundance of free time and lack of avenues to engage in productive activity leads them to blame ‘others’ – usually Muslims or Dalits – for endangering their culture and opportunities. This segment of his younger Hindu base views Modi’s controversial handling of the 2002 Godhra riots as a positive attribute.—– (As in economics one learns that there are different types of unemployment-this could also be a case of voluntary unemployed-Eg it does not mean that if there is food available that it be to my liking, hence by default if i dont eat it i could be termed as a hungry but does than mean am deprived,the answer is no.Please we do not have time to go around beating people.Yes many paid activists and politions do,they have enough time and resource to propagate the view that youth are in view that they are against muslims or dalits.We all live peacefully,recently i think till a few months back no dalits or muslims were in news as much they are now.Did they forget that atrocities have been done on them since the last 60 years? Where were they till now?If i may say so this “Dalits” ” Muslims” “Hindus” could have been avoided in itself when India got independence it exists as it is because of shoddy politics and monetary gains.Divide and rule if you may quote it as.If you roam among the masses we dont have these things.

    16.What I found most interesting was the fact that most millennials I interviewed could not tell me about any specific Modi policy or proposal that they supported or cheered. It was almost like his policies did not matter. I even broke the journalistic code by asking leading questions with specific policies, such as ‘Make in India’ or ‘Swachh Bharat’, but I never got any enthusiastic response.(Your article from the beginneing till now has only being showing me that you have not done enough research and is coming from a source based solely on media view or biased opinions- Please everyone knows from a kid to an elderly person all over that Swachh Bharat means clean india.Modi has been speaking or addressing the importance of these issues wherever he goes.Clean India i.e a clean nation not only promoted better health of the citizens living in it but as well mind.PM Modi has widely discussed on this topic and many institutions etc have taken these initiatives strongly and made students and colleges follow. Make in India,India aims to become a global leader hence this initiative is one step among many in realising that dream.How is this effective is that make in india will propel India as being a base of production and consumption.Make in India will increase the ease to do business as is evident in the world survey and according to new e transit scheme introduced recently.This will increase the production and distribution of major products in India.This ultimately aims to curb the foreign outflow of indian currency. There are various other yojnas as well,if you have free time please read up on those .https://sarkariyojna.co.in/complete-list-schemes-launched-pm-narendra-modi/ .Masses and international media alike have their eyes on him hence they know every other yojna that is introduced.

    To millennials, personality matters more than policy. Modi is more of a father-like figure leading an economic and social revival in the country, even though the benefits might not be felt by everyone. (Hence this article stating people think personality matters more than policy is utterly wrong).Please do better research and actually connect to the masses than selective audience)We respect and admire PM Modi because while he comes from a humble background he has achieved a great feat as an individual and a political.He is a wonderful politician and a fave of the masses because what he says makes sence. His vision for India is not the only thing that makes us give him respect but his ability to handle many critical situations. Every person media,individual or otherwise accuse or if they state a opinion should be after thorough research which i see is very lacking here.This is as if one says “i saw””i heard” instead of “this is the actual fact”

    • Alisa Madam, Why are you so much confused in a bid to paint NaMo in bright colors ?
      Please think and think only objectively to avert any nervousness, hurry and confusion !

      The year 2014 did come only with a flash light appearing for some time but now fading
      after its temporary and alluding NaMo flickers !

      Kindly be prepared for a change for the better as new colors and lights are in
      the offing in the year 2019 ! Have some sort of patience in this regard !

      Prof PK Sharma, Freelance Journalist
      Pom Anm Nest, Barnala(Punjab)

    • Why Ms. Alisa such a blind support to Modi. First leave search Bharat or make in India projects of BJP what is his mind set about the minorities. Understand first India is secular country and he is averse to this principle. Moreover most of the projects are failed badly because of very poor planning. As per the author if most of the youths are behind Modi then why he has lost all the elections in Bihar and UP.

      • India is whatever its people want it to be. Secularism isn’t written in stone. Also be careful what you demand for. A secular country means UCC is implemented and every religion follow same law. Muslim law goes out of the window. Secularism means govt. doesn’t get see religion. So Hajj subsidies & any targeted benefits to muslims will be immediately removed and they will be treated as equal to everyone. If they get lynched, it will be a simple crime, not hate crime as govt. doesn’t see religion. Allah & Muhammad will be openly abused and no action will be taken as a secular govt. doesn’t meddle with religion.

  7. Dear Author,

    We do not support PM Modi just because of his personality but because he has introduced a lot of new policies and many in India know about these policies as well.
    A few to name are 1. Swach Bharat :- It literally translates to mean clean India – As a clean environment promotes good health and better growth,this initiative was started.It was a widely discussed topic in media and the initiative was carried out all over India as well,expecially in schools and collages .PM Modi had personally at various rallies, discussed on the health benefits of a clean India.So saying that people don’t know what this is as if saying people don’t know about gravity .

    Make in India initiative is as well another yojna which is widely recognised by the general public and the media in India & abroad as well. Make in India literally means to make goods in india. I.e India imports a lot of stuff may it be electronic items or otherwise from abroad due to lack of infrastructure to produce these in India.Make in India initiate realities to curb this and provide India with a infrastructure and environment for Indian based companies or foreign to establish,produce and sell their products in India itself. This will mean that india will become a base manufacturer and producer and consumer(as it is now),restraining the currency outflow.

    If you had done proper research you would have known these.I dont know on what basis you have done research. It would seem like this assumption of yours that we India is freefloating on the persona of modi rather than his work is as the UN Report stating that a lot of atrocities were done in kashmir by indian militants during Ramadan 2018 ( which as everyone knows was a false report submitted by pakistani activists in the un).Hence please do visit actual India and do better researcher and demonetization has brought in lot of reforms as many unlisted company are now compelled to pay tax.Hence calling it a setback is baseless. Yes it is true that due to demonetization general public has to face various setback,but we took it in stride as it would be benefiting us in the long run. India is gearing towards to become a global power hence there can be many biased opinions due to political rivalry and fear of our economic growth.Hence we request you to make an unbiased view of why people actually see PM Modi as a leader and believe in him and his government in general to take India forward.

  8. Do millennials in small towns have aspirations that are completely different from those of people living in Bombay and Delhi ? One would have thought the poor pace of job creation or the health of the economy would have affected them equally. Surely there must be more to a young person’s life than sending – and receiving – WhatsApp messages, a little removed from reality.

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