PM Narendra Modi woos first-time voters of 2018 with an eye on 2019

By making special mention of those born in the 21st century who will henceforth be eligible to vote, PM Modi has smartly attempted to woo a new category of the electorate who will be tracked for their voting behaviour in the run-up to the 2019 elections. In his last ‘Mann Ki Baat’ of 2017, Modi remarked that the first day of 2018 is “special” because “those born in the 21st century will gradually become eligible voters”.

Modi spoke about such voters in his Independence Day speech in 2017 too. He had referred to them as “creators of the destiny of our nation in the 21st century”. Recently, while addressing party leaders after victories in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, Modi reminded them of reaching out to the group in an effort to strengthen the party ahead of 2019 elections. Restating it on the last day of 2017 was possibly aimed at maximising the impact.

To reinforce self-image of this group, Modi declared that their “vote will prove to be the bedrock of new IndiaBSE 1.37 %”. For him, it is not just about becoming voters but “about you determining and deciding the course of the nation in the 21st century”.

In a society where the youth are not often accorded the right within families to decide on matters pertaining to their own lives, a declaration that they will have a decisive say in the future of the nation is indeed a tall promise undeniably aimed at winning them over. With his ‘Mann Ki Baat’, Modi has tried to engage with Indians in the age band of 18-25 years who are “infused with energy and resolve”. Reiterating what he often stated as part of conscious outreach, Modi declared “new India youth stands for aspirations, enthusiasm and energy”.

Modi’s efforts to engage with the youth contrast with the steps taken by his opponents. As witnessed in Gujarat, where Congress president Rahul Gandhi wooed the youth with reasonable success by articulating grievances and giving voice to dissatisfaction over government functioning, Modi engages with youth by seeking partnership in nation-building.

The PM repeatedly beseeches people that they must not be solely dependent on government, but must take destinies in their own hands. Modi has unfailingly countered agitations against his regimes by emphasising that “a man full of enthusiasm is very strong” and that “nothing is impossible for a man having positivity and zeal”. Despite visible anti-incumbent sentiment, especially among the youth, Modi is persisting with the policy of enlisting the youth through platforms like MyGov which too found mention in Sunday’s radio talk.

Like often in the past, Modi mooted an idea of another mega-event — successful implementation of which by government agencies, or by BJP, has potential to yield political dividends. He suggested a mock Parliament around August 15 where 18-25 year olds “could sit together and brain storm about new India, find ways and chalk our plans”

Besides new 21st century voters, Modi reached out to Muslim women again by mentioning government decision to allow women above 45 years and in groups of four to go on Hajj without Mehram (specified male guardian). It was presented as an initiative in line with steps to criminalise instant triple talaq.

“When I went into the depth of the matter I was surprised to find that even after seventy years of our independence, we were the ones who had imposed these restrictions,” the prime minister stated. He didn’t mention that Hajj regulations were liberalised only after similar steps in Saudi Arabia and previous governments had not selectively prevented Muslim women from going on Hajj. Additionally, the decision was taken following the recommendations of a committee comprising luminaries.

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