Did youth give thumbs-up to Congress?

May 16th, 2009 - 5:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Rahul Gandhi By Azera Rahman
New Delhi, May 16 (IANS) Twenty-year-old Raeesha Khan had a jubilant “It’s thumbs-up Congress!” as her status message on Google chat Saturday. Following the number game closely on the TV as the poll results kept pouring in from across the country, she, like many young people, said they were glad they voted for the Congress.

“I voted for the Congress candidate of my constituency. For me it was the party that was important. Unlike the BJP which kept digging up graves of age-old issues, people like Rahul Gandhi spoke about the importance of youth power in building the future of the country. That’s what is important,” Khan, a college student, told IANS.

Rajiv Jain, a PhD student, similarly said: “Thank God, Congress did so well! With all the BJP leaders looking so confident over the last few days, I was a little worried”.

“We need young leaders today, like Omar Abdullah, Sachin Pilot and Rahul Gandhi who have new ideas and fresh perspective to important issues. And we definitely don’t want a party whose candidates keep talking on religious lines, when there are much more important issues to deal with,” he added.

In a performance that dealt crippling blows to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies as well as the Communist-led Third Front, the Congress tally in the 545-member Lok Sabha rose sharply from the 145 seats it won in 2004.

Accepting that it had probably underestimated the young voters, Tarun Vijay, who heads the Dr Syama Prasad Mookherjee Research Foundation, the think tank of the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), said on TV the party, among other things, “ignored the youth”.

Political analyst N. Bhaskara Rao however said that it was not so much ignoring the youth that mattered, but the kind of message that went out by the BJP.

“I don’t think the BJP ignored the youth. In fact they started their e-campaign much before the Congress. However the BJP did a lot of negative campaigning while the Congress did positive campaigning. The BJP kept talking about the past, while the Congress talked about the future,” Rao told IANS.

“Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi talked about facts. He spoke about things like the poor remaining poor and about grassroot development,” he added.

Pointing out that the BJP does not have a “young face”, Indian Youth Congress president Ashok Tanwar told IANS: “When it comes to the BJP we don’t see any face of the youth wing. Congress is an out and out democratic party giving opportunity to the youngest of the cadres”.

“We have always had a conscious policy to encourage the youth and this has gotten a booster after Rahul Gandhi became in charge of the youth wing National Students Union of India (NSUI),” Tanwar said.

Rao further added: “The BJP did not ignore the youth, they pushed the wrong message to the urban youth. They did not understand the aspirations of the youth which Rahul Gandhi tried to. He held the bull by its horns.”

An estimated 55 million voters - out of a 714 million electorate - was between the ages of 18 to 35.

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