FROM THE ED­I­TOR- IN- CHIEF

India Today - - NEWS - ( Aroon Purie)

Youth, Ge­orge Bernard Shaw fa­mously con­cluded in his old age, is wasted on the young. It’s never easy be­ing young. But in In­dia, not too long ago, the power of the youth was at its zenith. Young stu­dents were leav­ing uni­ver­si­ties and busi­ness schools with cam­pus jobs that of­fered six- fig­ure salaries. There were op­por­tu­ni­ties to be en­trepreneurs, to chase dreams, to mi­grate to big­ger cities on their own terms, to travel the world for a year and re­turn to al­most any part of the coun­try to find that there were still tak­ers for fresh ideas and new ser­vices. It was boom time for In­dia, and for the coun­try’s youth. There was con­stant chat­ter about the ‘ de­mo­graphic div­i­dend’.

The last few years has brought dark fore­bod­ing. Salaries have dropped, jobs have dried up, trav­el­ling or study­ing abroad has be­came ex­or­bi­tant, and the gen­eral sense of op­ti­mism as young pro­fes­sion­als en­tered the mar­ket­place has been re­placed by a pall of gloom.

It is this en­vi­ron­ment of de­spair that is mak­ing young In­di­ans an­gry in­stead of just rest­less. The In­dia To­day Group- CVoter Youth Poll fea­tured on this week’s cover finds first- time vot­ers in the 2014 Gen­eral Elec­tions, ea­ger and con­cerned in equal mea­sure. More than 90 per cent of the re­spon­dents, all be­tween 18 and 22, say they would def­i­nitely vote in the next elec­tions, and 76 per cent ad­mit their main worry is find­ing a good job.

Given the eco­nomic cli­mate, it is per­haps no sur­prise that the UPA Govern­ment is not in the good books of a ma­jor­ity of the re­spon­dents. More than 40.5 per cent say the BJP rep­re­sents the youth best, as op­posed to 30 per cent who side with the Congress. Al­most 35 per cent say they will vote for the NDA as op­posed to 26 per cent who say they will vote for the UPA and 47.3 per cent pick 63- year- old Naren­dra Modi as their prime min­is­te­rial can­di­date ahead of 33.9 per cent who opt for the two- decades- younger Rahul Gandhi.

These num­bers should have the Govern­ment wor­ried be­cause ac­cord­ing to the Houselist­ing and Hous­ing Cen­sus Data, 2011, re­leased on Septem­ber 13, the num­ber of youth be­tween the ages of 18 and 22 is 149.36 mil­lion. That’s about one- fifth of the to­tal elec­torate of 725 mil­lion es­ti­mated by the Elec­tion Com­mis­sion.

The most in­trigu­ing re­sults were that 47.1 per cent felt that the 2002 Gu­jarat ri­ots would play an im­por­tant role in the next elec­tions, and an even higher per­cent­age, 49.4, felt that the Ram Mandir was still an is­sue in 2014 even though 82.2 per cent wanted the next govern­ment to firmly up­hold In­dia’s sec­u­lar cre­den­tials.

Our other big story this week looks at the phe­nom­e­nal rise of Young In­dia’s ap­par­ent PM choice, Modi, from a di­vi­sive state chief­tain win­ning a third term to a re­gional leader poised for a na­tional role. But as BJP heavy­weights bite a bit­ter pill to stand be­hind their new tal­is­man, it is per­haps the Gu­jarat Chief Min­is­ter’s turn to en­sure the next Gen­eral Elec­tions are not a ref­er­en­dum on him but a larger dis­cus­sion about an In­dia that has lost its way.

In his first speech as the prime min­is­te­rial can­di­date in Re­wari, Haryana, on Septem­ber 15, Can­di­date Modi told ex- ser­vice­men how he was a sim­ple man whose fam­ily could not af­ford to send him to Sainik School, and went on to de­scribe how he would serve tea to sol­diers in Mehsana. His head­line­mak­ing point was an ap­peal, as op­posed to a warn­ing or an ul­ti­ma­tum, to Pakistan to give up cross- bor­der ter­ror­ism and fo­cus on its own de­vel­op­ment. It was a mes­sage the al­ready- wooed youth may em­brace but will older vot­ers with longer mem­o­ries be able to dis­tin­guish Modi’s prom­ises from Modi’s his­tory? That is the ques­tion.

OUR SEPTEM­BER 1999 COVER

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