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4-min read

Can 'UP Ke Ladke' Strike a Chord With The State's Youth?

Satyaprakash, a 25-year-old rickshaw-puller in Meerut’s Nauchandi, is asked why he likes the duo. “Aap hi bataiye, bhaiyya. Do naujawan neta ek saath honge toh achche nahi lagenge kya? (You tell me, brother. When two youth leaders come together, will I not like them?” he says.

Uday Singh Rana | News18.com@UdaySRana

Updated:February 8, 2017, 7:29 PM IST
Can 'UP Ke Ladke' Strike a Chord With The State's Youth?
Uttar Pradesh CM Akhilesh Yadav; Congress leader Rahul Gandhi

Meerut: The main speakers are yet to arrive but the energy at the rally venue is palpable. Leaders from the stage keep assuring them, “Aap ke neta kuch der mein pahunchne waale hain!” (Your leaders are set to arrive in a short while). At this point, a helicopter carrying Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi flies overhead, bringing the two leaders to their rally in Meerut – their fourth joint appearance since the alliance was announced between the Samajwadi Party and Congress. The crowd breaks into loud cheers.

Posters and banners flaunt the slogan ‘UP ke ladke’ (UP’s boys), coined by poll strategist Prashant Kishor. Mulayam Singh Yadav, though conspicuous by his absence on the campaign trail, smiles from images on party flags. However, instead of pictures of an older, beleaguered Mulayam, the pictures are of a younger Netaji. The message is clear – this is a party of the young and for the young. While the senior Yadav draws older voters to his rallies, the supporters at the Akhilesh-Rahul rallies are mostly in their 20s. They climb bamboo scaffoldings eagerly for a glimpse of the two.

Satyaprakash, a 25-year-old rickshaw-puller in Meerut’s Nauchandi, is asked why he likes the duo. “Aap hi bataiye, bhaiyya. Do naujawan neta ek saath honge toh achche nahi lagenge kya? (You tell me, brother. When two youth leaders come together, will I not like them?” he says.

His vote, he says, will go to someone who can prove they can “work” for the people. “Modi talks big but he hasn’t really done much. When it comes to Akhilesh, he has shown that his work speaks for itself.”

Given that most of his supporters at the rally are between the ages of 18 and 35, Akhilesh knows how to play to the gallery. “Our boys in UP can ride a cycle without using their hands. Imagine what the speed of the cycle will be when the ‘hand’ of the Congress comes with us. UP’s boys can ride a cycle even in the storm,” he thunders.

He also took a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BSP chief Maywati in the same breath. “Modiji came to Meerut just a few days ago and said they will fight SCAM in UP. He said SCAM – Samajwadi, Congress, Akhilesh and Mayawati. Batao, humari Buaji ka naam kyun jod diya ismein? (Tell me, why did he have to join my aunt’s name to this list?) Buajii has celebrated Raksha Bandhan with BJP and formed government with them. UP will never forget that,” he quips.

The CM then went on to highlight his government’s achievements and attack the Central government over demonetisation. “Because of Modiji’s policies, the entire nation was standing in lines. None of the black money holders were in line. People died in queues and we gave Rs 2 lakh compensation to the victims. In Kanpur, a child was born in queue. The bank manager named child Kazanchi (cashier). We gave him Rs 2 lakh as well. The Center has done nothing for victims.”

In contrast to Yadav, who included several local issues such as Meerut Metro project and the Center’s refusal to include Meerut in the 100 Smart Cities list in his speech, Rahul Gandhi stuck mostly to script. Gandhi’s message did not evolve much since the last time he was in Meerut to conclude his 3,500 km-long Deoria se Dilli Yatra in October last year. “When we were in power, we waived farmers’ loans worth Rs 70,000 crore. What has Modiji done to help farmers? He also said that he would generate 2 crore jobs. I want to ask all of you present here, did Modiji give any jobs to any of you?”

He did, however, talk of the alliance and how they would soon sweep the upcoming assembly polls: “When Akhilesh and I announced the alliance, suddenly we noticed that a wave had started to emerge in our favour. Together, we want to take UP to new heights. We want to help small businesses and farmers. We will ensure that UP becomes the food basket of the world.”

Among the biggest problems facing young voters in UP is the staggering unemployment rate, which is one of the highest in the country. In UP, the overall unemployment rate is 74 per thousand of population. According to a Ministry of Labour & Employment report, over 30% households have an income of less than Rs 5,000 per month.

Imran Murtaza, a 21-year-old motorcycle mechanic in Meerut, is a first-time voter and is convinced that the “purge” of the old guard in the Samajwadi Party would mean Akhilesh 2.0 would be able to focus on their issues. “I am not even a graduate. I barely finished school. Imagine how difficult it would be for me to find a job. It is true that they (SP) have not created many jobs. But then, neither have the other parties. However, Akhilesh Bhaiyya has removed all criminal elements from his party. Now he can focus on our issues. Besides, I connect with both Akhilesh and Rahul. Dono apne bhaiyya se lagte hain (It feels like they are my own brothers).”

The older voters, however, are supporting the alliance rather grudgingly. Salman Qureshi, a 60-year-old from Sardhana, came all the way to the city because his son wanted to see Akhilesh and Rahul. Qureshi says he misses Yadav senior. “We are followers of Mulayam. I have been loyal to him since his days in the Janata Party. I miss Mulayam but I think his son is his natural successor. In my day, we used to say ‘Jiska jalwa kayam hai, uska naam Mulayam hai’ (The man whose charisma is alive, his name is Mulayam). Now, the slogan is Jiska jalwa kayam hai, uska baap Mulayam hai. (The man whose charisma is alive, his name is Mulayam).”

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| Edited by: Nakshab Khan
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