The youth wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will launch a ‘pehla vote Modi ko’ — first vote to Modi — campaign this month to woo first-time and young voters in this year’s parliamentary elections, two BJP leaders said.
It’s one of the 14 programmes the BJP leadership has assigned to the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), led by Mumbai North-Central MP Poonam Mahajan, to organise in the run-up to the summer elections with the objective of drawing the maximum support of young voters, using Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the mascot.
The campaign is expected to start after the BJP’s national council meeting in New Delhi on January 11 and 12, and will aim at reaching the young who will vote for the first time in the elections.
Every year about 20 million people turn 18 — and thus become eligible to vote — in India. About 30 million Indians were aged 10 in 2011 and will be eligible to register as voters in the 2019 elections. The Election Commission will publish the final electoral rolls on January 21.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had called these ‘millennium’ voters — those born in year 2000 — and asked the BJP last year to design a campaign to win their support.
“The ‘pehla vote Modi ko’ campaign is about making young voters take a pledge that their first vote will go to Prime Minister Modi,” Mahajan said. “Over the next few months, the party will reach out to these first-time voters and even those young electors who voted for us in the last election.”
Another BJP office bearer, one of the two cited in the first instance, said, “We plan to conduct events in colleges and university campuses to tap young voters and make them take a pledge about ‘first vote to Modi’. They can post their pledge on social networking sites, which will also encourage others to take a similar pledge.”
This BJP leader, who requested anonymity, claimed that the BJYM will also put up kiosks at important locations in the city to draw young people into taking this pledge.
A youth icon network will also be set up to draw up a list of individual influencers in each state to engage with young people. The BJYM is targeting 1,000-plus influencers across the country, and will identify at least one in each district.
“These influencers, through different programmes, will reach out to 1000-plus people,” the second leader said, also on condition of anonymity. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will interact with these influencers at a town hall programme in the run-up to the campaign.
According to Census 2011, India had a 583 million strong population of people aged between 10 and 35. The total young population (10-15 years) was 158 million in 2011. The total youth population (10–35 years) in the country was 563 million as per Census 2011, with about 70% living in rural areas.
Experts credit overwhelming support from young voters for the BJP’s stellar show in 2014 when it became the first party in 30 years to win a majority on its own in the Lok Sabha .
“The vote share of the BJP amongst young voters was 34.4%, more than three percentage points higher than its average vote share of 31.1%,” Sanjay Kumar, director of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, said in a research paper titled ‘The youth vote made a difference for the victory of the BJP’, published after the last parliamentary election. He wrote, “In the past, never had the young voters shown making such a clear political choice among various political choices.”
Mahajan said, “We see the same trend this time around.”
Even so, experts say that getting a 2014-type response from young voters will be a challenge for the BJP. “Young voters were drawn to Modi without much efforts in 2014. This helped the BJP create a positive social media narrative,” said Sidharth Mishra, president of the Centre for Reforms, Development and Justice.
“BJP will have to toil hard to get a similar response from young voters in the coming election.”