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The burden of expectations

LiveMint logoLiveMint 16-05-2014 Asit Ranjan Mishra

New Delhi: It’s over, the results are out, and now comes the tough part. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) will now have to meet the expectations of a young nation hungry for growth and employment.

Economic revival, better (and more) jobs, low inflation, less corruption and speedy reforms are what voters of various hues expect from what promises to be a strong and stable government.

And failure could invite criticism from all fronts.

The new Indian government’s reform initiatives in economic and fiscal policies over the next two-three months may have significant implications on the sovereign credit rating of India, Standard and Poor’s said in a note on Friday. The rating agency has assigned the lowest investment grade to the country with a negative outlook.

“What the next government says and does in the coming months is crucial to boosting confidence in the policy settings and the economy,” said its credit analyst Takahira Ogawa. “If confidence rises, investment and consumption in India could strengthen, after being held back by the uncertainty surrounding the election.”

Around 830 million people were eligible to vote in this year’s general election, and first-time voters aged 18 and 19 years accounted for 23.16 million of this. In several states including Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh, more than 55% of the total voters were less than 40 years of age. Every year 12 million people join the workforce looking for jobs.

The clear political mandate means people are dreaming about a better future rather than bothering about a sad past, according to Manish Sabharwal, chairman of staffing and training company TeamLease Services Pvt. Ltd.

Graphic by Yatish Asthana/Mint

“If there were nearly 100 million new voters this time, the new government should not forget that there would be similar number of fresh voters in 2019 (next general election) as well,” Sabharwal said. “So the new regime has to keep in mind the expectations.”

It isn’t just the young who want more and expect better.

“Students, job seekers and professionals, all want the economy to improve and create a sense of job security. This was missing for last few years,” said Kamlesh Raval, regional sales director (India and South Asia) at Evolving Systems, a telecom ancillary company.

The BJP fed these hopes of better times with slogans such as achhe din aane wale hain (good days are coming), which Modi even used in his victory tweet.

“There is a need for change in the country. Young people want employment. The Congress party has again promised 100 million jobs this time. Do you have faith in the promises made by Congress party?” he asked at a public meeting in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, on the outskirts of New Delhi in April, ridiculing the poor track record of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in creating jobs.

Between 2005-06 and 2011-12, the Congress-led UPA created 16 million jobs.

In these general elections, aspirations mattered more than traditional factors such as caste, said an expert.

“This time a lot of people have voted outside the existing framework of religion and caste. At the bottom of it was an aspirational new generation and society,” said sociologist Shiv Vishwanathan.

Indeed, while campaigning in some north Indian states, Modi often talked about how parties had often exploited the Dalits for political benefits. He cautioned Dalits not to allow themselves to be used as vote banks by political parties, and accused parties such as the Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party of doing little for the upliftment of Dalits and other backward classes (OBCs).

“It is the dream of BJP that no community or section of our society should be left behind. All communities should benefit from development process. How can we tolerate that financially weak, scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, Dalits remain weak and do not benefit from the development of the country,” Modi said at a public meeting in Mandala, Madhya Pradesh, in March.

Even in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, where polarization on religious lines was evident, young people said they believed a Modi-led government could deliver growth and jobs.

Mayank Rathore, a student in a course in computer applications at a Muzaffarnagar college, said only Modi among the current crop of politicians seemed capable of fulfilling the aspirations of the young. “He speaks of connecting all metros with bullet trains and build large industries. Kahin na kahin to naukri dilwa hi dega (He can ensure we get a job at some place or the other).”

Nowhere is the evidence of an aspirational wave more evident than in the electoral results of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Voting on caste lines has been the dominant factor in previous elections in the two states. This time around voters in both states seem to have rejected their historical caste biases.

In Uttar Pradesh, Dalits seem to have shunned the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party in favour of the BJP. In Bihar too, the BJP ran away with the elections. Sure, the BJP played up Modi’s own OBC status in these two states, but its predominant focus, like it was everywhere else, was on development.

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