FROM THE EDITOR- IN- CHIEF
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abroad has became exorbitant, and the general sense of optimism as young professionals entered the marketplace has been replaced by a pall of gloom.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