Asked for comments on the secularism versus communalism debate, the expression on 21-year-old Ram Prakash’s face turns from incredulousness to anger before he attempts an answer: “Modi (BJP’s prime ministerial candidate) will bring development. Who does not want to be wealthy?”
A resident of Dausa adjoining Jaipur, Prakash has recently completed a diploma course in auto engineering and represents the 22-lakh strong group of new and largely apolitical voters who seem largely influenced by the pro-Modi campaign by the media.
From Ajmer to Kota to Jaipur, the changes happening in Rajasthan’s socio-political landscape are rather visible. With mushrooming of big shopping malls, dress and food habits of the young are changing.
“It is no longer virtuous to be a teetotaler and an increasing number of girls have started visiting beer bars. Howsoever slowly, this generation of voters has also come to challenge the conventional political paradigms based on caste or religious affiliations”, said Rajesh Sharma, editor of the local daily Rashtradoot.
Some re-defining of politics is visible at the tribal-dominated constituency of Sawai Madhopur – traditionally held by the Meena community. This time, the three Meena communities are fighting for the third, fourth and fifth spots. In the adjoining constituency of Dausa, the Meena candidates have to give up their pride to ask for the votes of their traditional rivals – the Gujjars.
In the districts of Barmer, Sikar, Jhunjhunu or Nagore, caste and religious identities have remained strong and several community groups such as the Mewar Rajput Sabha have actively campaigned for one candidate or another. To that extent, the forces of conservatism and modernity seem to be working in tandem and in conflict with one another at the same time.
“The youth has become far more politically aware and decisive in its thinking. It is this aspect that is likely to influence the electoral outcome the most”, said Professor Arya Kumar, assistant vice chancellor at BITS, Pilani.