It’s a young Gujarat that will vote in the assembly election on December 13 and 17. Of the 3.78 crore registered voters, nearly two crore are young voters in the age group 20-39 years, according to Election Commission figures. Add to this the voter in the 40-49 years age group, considered the new young, and the numbers rise to 2.8 crore of the total registered voters.
The age bandwidth was acknowledged by both the principal parties, the BJP and the Congress, in their strategies, manifestos and election meetings. The numbers mean that 54% of the voters are below 40 years and their concerns have to be addressed directly if we have to continue getting their support, said a top BJP strategist.Another 19% in the midde-age, or fashionably termed the new young bracket, and it’s a substantial chunk of voters to appeal to, as directly as possible.
This concern led to chief minister Narendra Modi enunciating plans for a “neo-middle” class or “aspirational” class on December 4 when he released the party’s Sankalp Patra or manifesto. The state government has held job melas targeted at this section of the voter population, which the Congress has repeatedly rubbished as an eye-wash.
“The youth asked for jobs, they got a kite festival,” pointed out Arjun Modhwadia, president of the state Congress unit. “This is a big issue. Joblessness is rampant among the youth, especially the rural youth who have little or no access to entrepreneurial or business opportunities as in urban areas.”
The BJP says the urban youth, one of its core and committed voter base, is unlikely to desert the party this time.
“There’s no doubt that the young voter holds the key in this election,” points out Ajay Dandekar, social scientist and researcher with the Central University in Gandhinagar, “The urban and rural youth think differently. The urban Gujarati youth, especially men, see Modi as some sort of a hero but the rural youth are more bothered about lack of opportunities, jobs, water and other such issues.”
The young voter is being wooed by another agency too — the Election Commission. Officials say that the percentage of turnout depends upon this category. To draw them out to polling booths, the EC recently embarked on a drive to get school students, nearly 600,000 students according to reports, to write a letter to their parents asking them to vote in this election.