In Punjab Polls, Young Voters Hold the Key for Ageing Leaders

Ironically, the young voters have to choose between the two ageing CM faces of the Akali Dal and the Congress.

Published
Politics
2 min read
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal (centre) and Deputy Chief Minister (second from right) Sukhbir Singh Badal during a Shiromani Akali Dal rally in Muktsar on January 14 2016. (Photo: IANS)

With a three-cornered contests on the cards in a majority of the 117 Assembly seats in Punjab this time, younger voters are likely to hold the key for the major political parties – the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP alliance, the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) – for the crucial state elections on 4 February.

In a population of over 28 million, there are over 19.7 million registered voters in Punjab – 10.4 million males and 9.31 million females. Of the total voters, 53 percent, or nearly 10.5 million, are young voters (including first-time voters) in the 18-39 age group.

Ironically, the young voters have to choose between ageing leaders who are the chief ministerial faces of two parties – the Akali Dal and the Congress.

Focusing on Younger Voters

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal is 89 years old. His Congress rival, Amarinder Singh, claims that Badal is actually 94 years old, while he himself will turn 75 in March. The AAP is yet to project its chief ministerial face.

All the four major political parties in the fray are focusing on the younger voters through social media, direct interaction with top leaders and door-to-door campaigns. The state election commission too is trying to draw first-time voters.

Our focus has been to enroll the maximum number of new voters. Special campaigns were carried out in colleges and other places to register new voters.
VK Singh, Punjab Chef Electoral Officer

Compared to the straight contest between the Akali Dal-BJP combine and the Congress in the past few decades, Punjab will witness an interesting contest this time with the AAP breathing down the necks of the traditional opponents.

Baiting Youth Votes With Younger Leaders

While the ruling alliance is upbeat about securing a third consecutive term, it faces a 10-year anti-incumbency factor. Allegations of corruption, nepotism, encouraging various mafias embroiled in drugs, transport, land, sand, liquor and other areas, are flying thick and fast against the leaders of both parties.

The Akalis, particularly the ruling Badal family (headed by Parkash Singh Badal), has thrived in the past decade at the cost of the state. People are fed up with their misrule and the mafias that they encouraged.
Amarinder Singh, Punjab Congress President

While rural voters, mostly from an agricultural background in the Green Revolution state, form a substantial vote bank for parties, many village residents are also younger voters.

The four parties have opted for relatively younger leaders on several seats to woo the youth this time.

The Akalis (who are contesting 94 seats) have their traditional vote bank in rural Punjab. The BJP (which is contesting 23 seats) banks mostly on urban votes. The AAP and the Congress have made inroads into the rural vote bank of the Akalis.
Ajmer Singh, Agriculturist, Sangrur District

AAP will plays a major role in next month's election, and could mar the chances of the ruling alliance and the Congress.

(This article has been published in an arrangement with IANS. Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at jaideep.s@ians.in)

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