This electoral battle was touted as one where the party that captures the mind of the youth, wins.
The BJP lost it hands-down.
Reason: Party’s PM candidate L.K. Advani chose laptop-wielding young professionals with no political experience over the 16 lakh-strong network of the RSS’s student wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).
Thus, blind to history, the BJP repeated its 2004 ‘India Shining’ blunder, choosing style over substance.
At a Delhi-state meeting of the ABVP at Jawaharlal Nehru University last month, activists were asked not to campaign for the party.
“We were told to go out and just request people to vote, as if we were running an NGO campaign,” said a doctoral fellow, requesting anonymity. “Because we are the RSS student affiliate and not the BJP’s student wing, and should not campaign for the party.”
While Rahul Gandhi got many Youth Congress activists to contest, not a single national office-bearer of the BJP’s youth wing Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) got a ticket.
In February, the BJP launched ‘Advani@Campus’, an ambitious programme to campaign in 5,000 colleges across India. But they kept the ABVP and BJYM out. Instead, several hundred professionals were sent to make PowerPoint presentations to students while the ABVP network in thousands of colleges languished on the margins.
Predictably, the programme flopped: the team could reach out only to a handful of colleges.
A senior ABVP activist vented his frustration. “Jo phoonke apna ghar, woh chale hamare sang (Those should join us who want to burn their houses).”
The excuse offered for ABVP not campaigning for BJP is baffling: the ABVP, born in 1948, is not the student wing of the BJP, founded in 1980. So, the ABVP should not campaign for the BJP. ABVP regional organising secretary Sunil Bansal and Delhi state vice-president Manoj Kumar echoed this self-defeating line.