Millennials Will Vote Back Modi Govt Only if it Delivers Jobs
Image used for representational purposes.
Image used for representational purposes. (Photo: iStock/Altered by The Quint)

Millennials Will Vote Back Modi Govt Only if it Delivers Jobs

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 2014 election was historic in many ways. His campaign, which used technology and social media to a degree never seen before in modern Indian politics, upended existing political calculations and won an overwhelming majority.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) cobbled together an alliance much larger than its traditional base of traders and upper-caste Hindus, by reaching out to farmers, urban residents, and most importantly, young voters.

The campaign and Modi’s rhetoric largely projected him as an economic leader who would fix and turn the stalling Indian economy around by building new infrastructure, creating jobs, and investing in young people.

The 2014 election was, without a doubt, about recognising the Indian millennial. The next election will be about delivering for the millennial.

Also Read : Budget 2018: More Nays Than Yays for Millennials 

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India’s Young Vote for Change

With more than half its population under the age of 25, India’s future lies in its youth. In contrast to the ageing societies of Europe and East Asia, India is brimming with young people and their unbridled potential. However, if this generation is neglected, India’s demographic dividend could rapidly descend into a demographic disaster.

In 2014, 150 million Indians were eligible to vote for the first time. Different from previous generations, for whom caste and religion play a larger role in voting considerations, young voters had different priorities at the ballot box: Corruption, jobs, and the economy.

After ten years of being led by the traditionally socialist Indian National Congress, a government many saw as mired in corruption and murky politics, young voters chose Modi’s ‘Gujarat model’ of development, which was advertised to the country as being a successful model of pro-growth, economic development and prosperity for all.

These young voters, who turned out in historic numbers, with an average of two percent higher turnout relative to the entire electorate, chose Modi and the BJP by a decisive margin.

Since then, the new government has embarked on a campaign to reform the economy, update colonial-era laws, create a new unified tax code, and cut through the red tape. It has also launched numerous programs to foster entrepreneurship and the digitisation of the economy, which were personally advertised by the prime minister.

The results, however, have been mixed.

Also Read : Why Indian Millennials are Lagging Behind in Start-up Culture

India’s Youth Needs Viable Opportunities

India’s millennials want and need jobs, and they also need the skills and training to hold onto and succeed at these jobs. After establishing a new ministry dedicated to skill development and entrepreneurship in 2014, the government dismissed Rajiv Pratap Rudy, minister in-charge of the agency in 2017. The skill development program, which was allocated USD 1.8 billion budget, trained only three million individuals by July 2017, and less than ten percent received job offers.

Skill development and job creation will truly be the litmus test of the government. Quality of education in India varies greatly from state to state, and most job seekers do not have the required education ability or skills to succeed in their employment. In fact, only two percent of the Indian workforce is formally skilled, implying most workers do not have the necessary training for employment in the services or manufacturing sectors.

Furthermore, the government is focusing on creating jobs in manufacturing, despite the fact that these jobs are vanishing globally, victims to automation and greater efficiency.

Making matters worse is the information technology (IT) industry, once a beacon of hope and opportunity in India, which is under-performing globally and saw its workforce shrink for the first time last year. Without a booming IT sector, the millions of young men and women taking courses in engineering and computer science will not have opportunities to find employment.

Modi Govt Needs Overhaul to Win Back ‘Young Vote’

Although the government has made significant strides in cutting red-tape, simplifying the tax code, and making foreign investment more hospitable, its much-hyped ‘Make in India,’ ‘Digital India,’ and ‘Startup India’ campaigns have failed to create enough employment to absorb the roughly ten million Indians entering the job market every year. Without tangible results in economic growth and job creation, the very same millennials who voted Modi into office might be ready to vote him out.

However, the BJP benefits from the lack of a true Opposition party in India. The Congress party has been reduced to a minor political player at the federal and state levels, and its newly elevated president, Rahul Gandhi, is a fifth-generation political dynast in a country increasingly tired of entitlement and nepotism.

The time for rhetoric is over. For the BJP or the Congress to attract young voters in the next election, they cannot simply reach out to India’s booming millennial population. They will need to deliver for millennial voters by investing heavily in education (traditional and vocational) and creating new jobs not in manufacturing, but in skilled fields.

(The author is the founder of Vantage Analytics and the author of a forthcoming book on Indian millennials. He can be reached at @VivanMarwaha. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same)

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