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File photo of BJP supporters at a rally | PTI
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If there’s one constituency that has resolutely promoted the cult of Narendra Modi, it is the young and often first-time voters. The Modi government’s insistence on holding the Joint Entrance Exam Main and National Eligibility and Entrance Test, or JEE and NEET, despite vociferous protests from the students could well be the Opposition’s moment to recapture some of this electorate it has squandered away, and make a dent in the Bharatiya Janata Party’s most loyal voter base today.

What makes this opportunity even more compelling for the Opposition is that these students don’t come from institutions like Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) or Jamia Millia Islamia, whom the BJP finds easy to classify as ‘anti-nationals‘ and ‘tukde tukde gang‘ etc. Their anger makes no difference to the party since they are not its voters anyway.

However, the protesting students, who are yet to enter college, do not conform to a particular ideology, and hence, it is difficult to label them. United by a common cause, they represent a wide cross-section of India’s youth—mixed in gender, caste and class. And unlike those from Delhi’s Left-bastion JNU, they do matter to the BJP’s electoral arithmetic.

The students’ anger — some genuine, some orchestrated — was visible on online platforms. With Prime Minister Modi not addressing students and their concerns in the latest episode of Mann ki Baat, the show saw a heavy dose of ‘dislikes’ on various YouTube channels, including the BJP’s, and hashtags like

#StudentsDislikePMModi began trending on social media.


Also read: Separate rooms for Covid-positive aspirants among govt steps to smoothly pull off NEET-JEE


Modi and the young voter

Since his national rise began in 2014, Narendra Modi has been a hit among India’s young voters, managing to speak in a language that appeals to them, and engage in messaging that caters to their aspirations. They have ended up becoming an important pillar of his electoral ambitions.

I have travelled extensively to cover elections in the last few years — from Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, to Assam and Tripura — and found Modi’s popularity among the first-time/young voters quite overwhelming, transcending the urban-rural as well as gender divide.

They look at Modi as a ‘vikas purush‘, like the language he speaks and are happy to ignore his failings, including the divisive brand of politics he stands for. Among the biggest supporters of demonetisation, despite it being such a colossal failure, has been the youth. Modi is aware of how crucial this electorate is, how it has given him an edge election after election, and how it needs to be captured fully.

To be sure, this isn’t the first time the Modi government has antagonised the young voter. The difference, however, is that the youth he irked earlier aren’t his voters in any case. The protests at JNU or Jamia only helped Modi further accentuate the ‘anti-national’ labelling, and with opposition leaders joining the cause with those students, the BJP nicely bracketed them in the same category.

This time, however, it is different. And the Opposition, rightly so, has managed to sniff an opportunity in this student crisis.


Also read: Transport, food, financial aid — RSS draws up plans to help students appearing for JEE, NEET


The Opposition’s shot

For Opposition parties, especially the Congress, losing the youth vote to Narendra Modi has been a big blow.

India had a median age of 27.9 years in 2018. We are a young country, with the youth increasingly becoming a powerful electoral constituency. In the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha Election, the Election Commission of India had said around 8.4 crore first-time voters would cast their votes, making political parties across the spectrum gun for them.

With the JEE-NEET crisis, the opposition can take a shot at trying to recapture some of its lost base, if (a big one at that) it can play its cards well, sustain the momentum of the attacks on the Modi government and also engage with the youth in a way that they can relate to.

Opposition parties do realise this and are surprisingly united for now.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has been raising the pitch on the issue and attacked Prime Minister Modi with his ‘pariksha pe charcha’ not ‘khilone pe charcha’ jibe Sunday.

Can the Opposition outsmart Modi this time, or will the crafty Modi-Shah duo manage a turnaround by calming tempers? How much impact this can have electorally and how big or real is the anger will be seen in assembly elections due over the next few years. The Lok Sabha polls are a good four years away, giving these young voters enough time to fall in love with Modi once again, if at all they fall out with him.

The trick for the Opposition is to keep this anger simmering, counter every attempt by the BJP to douse the fire by adding a fresh dash of fuel, and identify a larger bouquet of issues to rally youth support. The NEET-JEE protests have given the Opposition a much needed opening to crack Narendra Modi’s favourite and most loyal vote base. Now, it needs to amplify its efforts to make a serious dent.

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21 Comments Share Your Views

21 COMMENTS

  1. Appeared for the test, thanks GoI.

    Test done, I am happy now. Postponing the test shouldn’t be an option.

    Liquor stores are open, rails are open, markets are open and so is elections. Why delay test for %age of population which has highest immunity !

    Doesn’t make sense, very relieved now !

  2. How is it that every little thing is a window is an opportunity to bring down the BJP? Irrespective of what damage it does? Do you folks not think? As the old saying goes “Opinions are like arse holes, everyone has one”, Looks like some of the fart and it stinks up the place. What was the point of this article? I would have criticized Rahul Gandhi for siding with the other side. Rahul Gandhi is a venom that will kill India. In your eagerness to bring down the BJP you are propping an incompetent nincompoop to the top.

  3. It is only in India people complain and ask Exams to be postponed. While I was doing Engineering in Bengaluru, we lost a year due to this rubbish. Everywhere in the world, people expect normalcy. People expect exams not to affected by the pandemic. In India it is the opposite. The press and intelligentsia thinks the same way. I understand the dislike for BJP, however wishing that conduction of exams at the right time as the reason for a voter discontent among the youth? Instead of arguing the other way around?

    In the US people are concerned about SAT’s. People are not asking for SAT’s to be not conducted. They want them done. In India we are more than happy to ask for postponements. I understand a year loss is really insignificant in ones life. However, there are people that cannot afford to lose that one year. It may be precious it may be something that may change their life entirely. STOP THIS RUBBISH SUPPORT FOR THESE IDIOTIC KIDS…. I know this and I have been there. Beat some sense into them.

    I am not sure anymore about the quality of opinions coming out of print. Immature, ill thought lacking any mature guidance.

  4. Madam, leave journalism and join congress. In the name of journalism you are openly instigating people. But all tricks of people like you will never be successful. Whatever you write nobody cares for your trash.

  5. A section of the media (including the author of the present article) seems to be detached from the reality of NEET-JEE aspirants. Counter to some narratives, as a ‘once upon a time’ JEE-NEET aspirant and rank holder, if I put myself in their shoes again, then giving the exams now to get into a college to pursue engineering / medicine would be much preferable than waiting one more (or few more) year(s). This is a ticket to a ‘set’ career, risk of corona is worth taking. Isn’t there a risk of corona from the neighborhood? The risk of corona is there whenever you or family member moves out of the house, so what is the big think in getting the exams done. Flights, buses, trains autos are plying, aren’t they?

  6. Madam-
    Who said students are protesting? It is political parties are protesting and trying to curry a favour to themselves, hoping ro at best! Dont spread such canard. Students cannot afford to lose one year and further mount the problem next year with double the number of students appearing for exams diminishing their chances by half. It is good that these JEE and NEET exams are happening now.

  7. POOHI is a CONGRASS journalist.

    Most parents want JEE AND NEET to be conducted.

    Congrass and it’s journalists are acting like DUMB students who never want exams to be conducted.

    Even when parents are worried about their losing a year. CONGRASS JOURNALIST is advising how to gain political advantage

    The problem is these, ideologues of congrass are armchair bound with no connection to the GROUND Realities

  8. I am not saying that some students do not want postponement of the entrance exams, but do you really think that the dislikes of Man Ki Baath are coming from them? Just like the Mumbai police is investigating the case of the rapper be who bought “likes” for his song on YouTube, it most likely that these “dislikes” too are bought.

  9. What a farcical information ! Tukde Tukde Gang is expanding because career minded Indian youth are asked to appear for entrance exams for which many of them would have been studying and taking coaching for more than at least two years. Author should start using his/her mind. This sort of disinformation campaign usually boomrange.

  10. This author is definitely out of touch with realist, as most of the students and parents are keen to get over the examination. Examination always brings anxiety to students and parents. In this case, it was much more, as potentially it means losing a year or losing an opportunity to study in the premier academic institutions on the nation.

  11. Its a double edged sword. Many students and parents want to postpone the exam. But there is also a sizeable group of students who just to get over with this exam (I am one of them). Also how many people get infected or not will shape the opinion of the masses after the exam. So I would refrain from making such assumption now.

  12. You are wrong again.Youth who does serious study for these entrance exams really want it to happen and move ahead.it is the lazy guys and opposition who wants to drag it geopardise the future of these youths and finally put the blame on Modi later for a zero year

  13. The above column is the reason why journalists have no credibility. For them politics is more important than the careers of today’s youth, they have to show to their party that they are working on the ground like a well oiled machine creating a particular narrative about the BJP. They dont care a damn even if they know well that delaying these exams further will result in a waste of one precious year and the next year the number of students appearing for this exam will double making chances of even the brightest more difficult. The covid situation is only aggrevating and we have to live with it. Exams if taken with the dur care of social distancing etc will take a huge burden off the students mind. And its not that the entire student community wants these exams to be put off. The media is showing only a partial picture. There are thousands of students who want these exams to go on as scheduled. The SC has also ruled in favour of holding the exams as scheduled. But in all this the usual defacto spokies of the congress and Narendra Modi haters are trying find a possible political lottery for the congress. Students future can go to hell. Congress has to be supported at any cost. Rahul needs a victory very badly to paint his fallen image. So once again do what congress does best, divide student community, abuse Modi blindly, create narrative by using the media. Use students as pawns to further the interest of the congress party. Utterly shameful amd disgusting.

    • Absolutely.. These people have long been stooges of some political party.. They are just taking care of the political agenda more than depicting the suffering of students.. What a shameful view!!

  14. She is a long lost sister of Shivam Vij…both are full of hatered to Modi and in that profound flow of emotion forget what they are writing.
    Ask any student and parents who is preparing for this exams for last 2 years…what agony is and who are they supporting ..opposition or Modi on this topic..none of these overrated self declared journalist ever sit in a comparative exam , understand the pressure and then give lecture on postpone the exams.. SG should seriously look what kind of comments she and Shivam Vij get on their articles and get rid of them..they both are useless..

  15. Ruhi, your hatred shows in every article you write. The problem with haters, the pseudo-seculars & others of your ilk is that you speak to an echo chamber and take your opponents lightly.
    Do you really think that the Govt would take such serious decisions without their finger on the pulse of those affected by this decision?

  16. So its a political issue? Very sad to see politics being reduced to a game where public interest is not always supreme. How can India afford an year with no doctors and engineers? How can twice the number of students appear for same number of seats next year? The repercussions of not holding JEE NEET are damaging for not only the students involved but the entire society !

  17. people understand epecially the youth u cant fool them …. the oppositions undue pressure would have dented the studies of the top 1 lakh serious aspirations a bit for sure for it creates dilemmas in the minds. the others who think they may not have a good chance are highly patriotic . they understand that jee neet is not something that can be gifted easily IT COMES THROUGH HARD WORK AND YOUNG PEOPLE ARE MORE ASTUTE IN UNCOVERING NUANCES DONT UNDERESTIMATE THE YOUTH OF INDIA ESP THE ONES PREPARING FOR JEE..AND NEET. SELF GOAL BY THE OPPOSITION .

  18. These issues would fade away. If everything goes on smoothly, Modi would turn around to say, I was worried about career, opposition was politicalising your future.

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