Over 12 lakh new and first-time voters will be eligible to vote in the Gujarat elections next month, says the Election Commission of India. At a time when the parties are pitched in a heated battle over the claims of development, demand for job quotas and caste identity, many experts say youth voters are already shifting the tone of the campaign rhetoric, and may even influence the outcome. Many first-time voters were infants when the 2002 riots took place, and may be unencumbered by the politics around it.
What do first-time voters in Gujarat, who have no memory of 2002, expect from the elections?
Many of the first-time voters in the Gujarat assembly elections weren’t yet eligible to exercise their franchise when the state voted overwhelmingly to make Narendra Modi the Prime Minister of India in 2014. But they were old enough to understand the prevailing craze for him, and for development.
These same people have grown up in Modi’s Gujarat, and have enjoyed the fruits of his vikas-centric governance. Why will they not vote for his party? They would obviously vote for a government that does not run contrary to the party in power at the Centre.
They know that their vote is for a Gujarati. Rahul Gandhi is busy attacking Modi in his campaign, not CM Vijay Rupani. People here can see through it all.
In our meetings in Gujarat campuses, we see that girl students are always saying that Gujarat is safe for them, that they feel safe even at 2 am in a public place. They say Gujarat is not unsafe like the rest of India. Our sisters on campuses know what is going on elsewhere, they read and share the news.
Here are other sharp perspectives on the Gujarat Elections:
Yashwant Deshmukh: founder-director, CVoter International
Sanjay Kumar: professor and director at CSDS
Mahipal Gadhvi: Gujarat state NSUI president
Vishnu Pandya: political analyst and Padmashree awardee
Yes, the youth would like more national-level higher education institutes.
It is incorrect to say that unemployment is high in Gujarat. The development model pursued by Modi here has created private sector investment and jobs. In the last two years, over 1.5 lakh people have been recruited in the Gujarat officers’ cadre. We have also opened positions in universities in the last three years. In 2015, the Modi government at the Centre also increased the monthly remuneration for research scholars.
In the last three or four years, the number of private universities has gone up. The youth do understand that the government can’t do everything. But they want the government to regulate and monitor the running of these private universities, make the fee structure uniform and transparent.
The Congress is fighting this election on caste divisions. Initially, people did support the Congress campaign, but as elections near, people are swinging back to the sentiment of supporting a Gujarati PM. Positivity has returned.
People know that even if the government promises job quotas to Patidars, the Supreme Court may stall it. Caste is not a big factor in Gujarat, like you see in UP and Bihar.
Gujaratis – young and old – like to travel. They see what the rest of the country looks like. They know things are better in Gujarat.
Naresh Desai is state secretary of ABVP, Gujarat.