Young Gujarat voters take stock of emerging young leaders; Hardik, Alpesh, Jignesh don’t impress all

Ahmedabad: More than half of Gujarat’s voters, 2.24 crore out of 4.33 crore, are under age 40. A large number of them told The Indian Express they are keen to vote, duty being the reason most commonly cited. What they expect of the next government, however, varies from voter to under-40 voter, from improving health and education to settling the issue of reservation.
And at a time when youth leaders Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor and Jignesh Mevani have taken center stage, many young voters dismissed them.
“Youth leaders like them are a waste of time for everyone,” said Harsh Shodhan, PhD student and co-founder of a theatre company, Machaan. “Young by ideas is what we want. These so-called youth leaders are fighting on an orthodox agenda. They have no role in promoting India as a superpower in future.” Shodhan calls for a “rooted local leadership… any leader under 40 would not be able to do justice”.
“These leaders will have a bare minimum impact,” said Mantraraj Naik, a final year engineering student. “They are just making a noise. The voter is silent and will show these so-called youth leaders their place.”
Yet Priyal Thakkar, 21, a BA in political science, wants more youth in politics. “Isn’t it ridiculous that a majority of our population is below 40 and yet we elect a majority of people above 60 to power?”
Priyal’s reason for voting is that “it is important that we have a say in how we are governed; only then do we have the right to be governed right”. Yash Patel, 22, a fourth-year IT student, wants to “decide who will make decisions that benefit various sections”. Nitu Mishra, a third-year arts student, is among the exceptions. “I would prefer NOTA because I would want neither BJP nor Congress to govern the state.”
Rushi Bhimani, an engineering student, wants a leadership that “does not take us back to caste politics”. “I don’t remember a Gujarat election where caste-based politics was so rampant… It is easier to identify with the BJP’s development promise rather than Rahul Gandhi’s blatant attempt to woo on the basis of caste.” Bhimani counts immunization and malnutrition as key issues “ignored so far by both the major parties”.
Viral Shah, 24, who runs a bookselling and publishing business, wants the leadership to be “technologically sound and visionary”. “I expect the next government to focus on better-quality education, more transparent governance and more opportunities for the youth to make decisions and be involved in politics,” said Shah.
Pranav Shah, 28, wants steps to end social inequality and economic disparity while Sheetal Pandya, a 23-year-old content writer, said, “The first issue the government in power should do is solve the problem of reservation.”
“The government also needs to speed up the pace of ongoing construction projects, which have become problematic for the public,” said Priyal, the political science BA.
Sushmita Mayuri, 20, a student at MSU Vadodara, lists the achievements of the BJP government, from making the state open defecation-free to electrification. “Hopefully, the BJP will come to power, but its support has been dwindling among dominant communities, so it is going to be a tough contest.”
Asked for a role model, many name Prime Minister Narendra Modi; others have none. Rushi Bhimani, whose role model is Modi, said: “Capital infusion into public sector banks and road construction shows the government is connected to ground realities. And Mantaraj Naik said, “I would say Barack Obama, who rose from a humble background, never compromised with his principals, as far as I know, and never fell for divisive politics.”

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