It’s not just the faces that are getting younger, the manifestos are too.
With just days to go before the October 13 Assembly election, candidates are offering everything from watersports clubs to acting classes and more open spaces for cricket, in an attempt to woo young voters.
This time around, nearly a fifth of the state’s 7.56 crore voters are under the age of 25.
While the fun-and-games promises are clearly targeting the urban youth, there are also a number of promises aimed at their rural counterparts — like educational reform and more self-employment schemes.
The GenNext clauses, included in the manifestos of all four major parties and a number of Independent candidates, are a far cry from the usual litany of better infrastructure and rural development.
“The youth is now an important constituency and the political parties recognise this,” said political analyst Venkatesh Kumar. “These are clearly promises meant to get their attention.”
In Malabar Hill, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) candidate Archit Jayakar (27) has promised to set up a 24X7 call centre exclusively for youngsters.
“This will help them tackle the various problems they face growing up,” said Jayakar. “Trained professionals will man the phones and help guide them in their difficult times.” Jayakar has even roped in his mother, actress Smita Jayakar, to hold a workshop on acting for aspiring stars after the election.
“If voted to power, we will hold workshops in various disciplines to encourage the youngsters in various streams,” he said.
In Bandra West, BJP candidate Ashish Shelar (38) has promised a watersports club on the seafront. “We can develop the entire seaface and start various activities here,” he said.
One of his opponents, Independent candidate and sitting corporator Raja Rahebar Khan (43), has a plan to match: He has vowed to sweep encroachments off plots reserved for playgrounds and gardens and open them up to youngsters as cricket pitches.
“Bandra today faces a shortage of open spaces and youngsters have no place to play,” said the former cricketer. “I will speed up slum rehabilitation programmes so we can reclaim these places.”
Sports is clearly top of mind this election season.
In Magathane, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) candidate Prakash Surve (43) plans to construct “at least eight” world-class gymnasia across his Assembly segment, with help from the Sports Association of India.
“We will charge nominal fees which can be afforded by even the poor sections of society,” said Surve.
The Shiv Sena’s young face of the season, Aditya Thackeray (19), is focusing on educational reform. The college-going son of party executive president Uddhav Thackeray played an important role in drafting the party’s manifesto and has said educational reform will be a key thrust area.
“The existing system is outdated and needs a complete overhaul,” he said. “We will even make extracurricular activities part of the syllabi.”