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The 'Y' Factor in Bihar Elections: How Youth Picked Priorities, Personalities in These Polls

RJD leader Tejashwi Prasad Yadav. (PTI Photo)

RJD leader Tejashwi Prasad Yadav. (PTI Photo)

The first-time voters, approximately 78 lakh, have not personally experienced the 'jungle-raj' of Lalu-Rabri's Bihar. So the lawlessness against which the leaders of the NDA, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and chief minister Nitish Kumar, issued repeated warnings throughout their political campaigns, is unlikely to have resonated with the younger voters.

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Suhas Munshi

Various exit polls have found a huge resonance for the Mahagathbandhan among the young voters - those between the age of 18 and 39, who form over half of Bihar's electorate. Through their surveys, the pollsters found that the issue of 'unemployment' trumped all others.

The exit poll carried out by research agency Today's Chanakya had the majority (35%) of its respondents rating 'unemployment' over issues such as 'development' (28%) and 'corruption' (19%). Topics such as 'national security', 'law and order' did not even figure among the top choices on the basis of which the electorate said they were voting.

The Axis My India exit poll projected that in those between the ages of 18 and 35, 47% of the electorate had preferred MGB over NDA, which was the preferred choice of only 34-36%. It was only among respondents above the age of 51 that the scales started to tilt decisively towards the NDA.

In a conversation with News18, a local journalist, Kanhaiya Bhelari, who runs a Bihar-centric portal called NewsHaat, said that to a certain extent he had seen traditional caste-based votes chipping away in favour of youths' aspirations. "I have been travelling across many constituencies for several days now. And I can tell you that caste barriers are melting at several places for the youth," he said. Regarding the image of chief minister Nitish Kumar among the youth, he said, "It's a bit like Sachin Tendulkar in his last days. Everyone was of the opinion that although he was a great player, he needed some rest now. It was time to look at the youngsters with a lot of hunger in their stomach, waiting in the shadows to prove themselves."

The hunger which Bhelari mentioned was arguably stoked further by the poll promises made by the RJD's Tejashwi Yadav. Many agree with the view that the 10 lakh government jobs that he has promised may be undeliverable, but nobody argues with the fact that he has single-handedly brought the poll campaign around this single issue.

Plus, there is the fact that the first-time voters (approximately 78 lakh) have not personally experienced the 'jungle-raj' of Lalu-Rabri's Bihar. Voters in the 18-25 age bracket, accounting for nearly 16 per cent of Bihar's population, were at most 10 years old when the Lalu-Rabri rule was replaced by Nitish Kumar. So the lawlessness against which the leaders of the NDA, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and chief minister Nitish Kumar, issued repeated warnings throughout their political campaigns, is unlikely to have resonated with the younger voters.

Academic Chandrachur Singh recently wrote something similar in The Indian Express about the possible emergence of the constituency of the youth. "The era of political assertions and dominations via caste-based political mobilisation power is waning...The sheer number of younger voters and their craving for education and employment opportunities in the backdrop of massive and ever-rising unemployment rates is driving this change [of election agenda being education and employment opportunities]."

Finally, Bihar's youth also is likely to have sensed and helped bring about the inevitable generational shift in the state politics, given how younger leaders like Tejashwi Yadav (31), Chirag Paswan (38) and Mukesh Sahani (40), staked claim to the space that for the past three decades has been dominated by figures like Nitish Kumar (69), Sushil Modi (68) and Lalu Yadav (72).


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