Kota: The Balakot air strikes, national security, Digital India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s personality. For young people preparing for engineering and medical entrance examinations in the coaching hub of Kota, Rajasthan, these are the main issues in the Lok Sabha elections.
The students, most of whom are between 16 and 19 years of age and include first-time and future voters, are from across the country. But for them, unemployment is not that big an issue. Instead, they say that although they can’t follow daily election updates because of the pressure of entrance exams, they are impressed with the performance of the Narendra Modi government.
A quiet campaign
At the height of the election campaign, there are few political posters in Kota. None of the BJP’s national leaders has campaigned in the city so far, concentrating mostly on the rural areas. Even the omnipresent government posters urging people — especially first-time voters — to cast their votes on 29 April are missing in Kota.
Students, dressed in their coaching centre uniforms, walk the streets like machines programmed for a single purpose — to crack IIT-JEE or NEET. Nearly one lakh new students arrive in Kota each year to prepare for engineering and medical entrance examinations, and around 50,000 remain from the previous batch to repeat classes, authorities say.
These future job seekers in Kota, however, are quick to absolve the government of any responsibility for unemployment. There are those who even say that getting jobs depends on the capability of the students, not the government.
“There is a lot of competition, the number of people looking for jobs is much more than the jobs available in the market. But this is because the job economy is totally focussed on engineering and medical. Eighty per cent of Indian kids are focussed in this sector,” says 18-year-old Shubham Meena, who came from Delhi to Kota for IIT-JEE preparation.
“However, I feel the government cannot do much to change this situation. It totally depends upon the individual efforts of a student to be able to get a job.”
Avesh Khan, 19, who has come from Daman and Diu to prepare for medical entrances, agrees with this line of thought. “It depends upon an individual’s efforts at the end of the day. The government can’t do much to provide jobs to people,” he says.
For the students, Narendra Modi’s personality towers above all other issues.
“Narendra Modi has a great personality, he is doing well. He is very enthusiastic and energetic with his work. In last five years, he has done a lot of work, so much that many governments in the past could not do,” says Sonal Nagariya, a 16-year-old from Kota, who is preparing for medical entrance exams.
Sitting outside their coaching centre waiting for a bus, Nagariya and her group of friends chat about how they came to support Modi — for some, it’s part of the sentiment in their family, while for others, his leadership has been impressive.
Nagariya says under Modi, people don’t have to fill a lot of forms or stand in queues, because a lot can be done online. “Digital India is a big winner for a young person like me,” she says.
Balakot a matter of pride
National security is one of the issues raised by Modi and the BJP that have found resonance among the students in Kota. Gaurang Shrivastava, a 19-year-old from Kanpur, said things like the recent Balakot strikes to “avenge” the killing of 40 CRPF personnel in Pulwama resonates a lot with young people.
“When things like surgical strikes or the recent Balakot strikes happens, they have a connect with the young people. People who fight for us do matter to us, and if something is done to avenge an attack on them, it is a big deal,” Shrivastava says.
The NEET aspirant who came to Kota around a year ago says he has been witness to development under Modi. “Development has happened in my area and surrounding areas. Roads have been built, infrastructure has improved, there has been industrial development. The government has done work which is there for everyone to see,” he adds.
Many youngsters throw around dialogues from the Hindi film Uri: The Surgical Strike, starring Vicky Kaushal, which is a dramatised account of the 2016 surgical strikes carried out by the Indian Army across the Line of Control, in response to the Uri terror attack.
Saumya Pal from Delhi, who calls herself a NaMo supporter, says India was known for never retaliating, but the new template of ‘ghar me ghuskar maarna’ (entering the enemy’s land to attack) is because of Modi, and it is “very inspiring”.
Nidhi Madhav from UP adds that Modi has performed a lot better than previous Congress governments, which did not conduct surgical strikes.
No takers for Rahul Gandhi
The only national political leader who visited Kota in this election campaign was Congress president Rahul Gandhi on 25 April. But the students were less than warm when talking about him, using words like “under-confident”, “incapable” and “not an alternative” — a few young women calling him “cute” was the high note.
“The Congress is not able to present itself in a good way, Rahul Gandhi does not have the kind of connect that Modi has. After he became the PM, even foreign countries started to lend their support to India,” says Nitin Mahajan from Madhya Pradesh, who’s preparing for the IIT-JEE exam.
Ankit Chaurasiya, also from Madhya Pradesh adds: “Even though Modi’s popularity has declined in the recent past, I don’t think we have any alternative. Rahul Gandhi does not seem to be an alternative — Congress is making an alliance, but the alliance does not have a prime ministerial candidate, a face. BJP at least has a face, which is Narendra Modi.”
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