India's youth voting for change, firm leadership

India's youth voting for change, firm leadership
Young Indians holding placards during a "Let's Vote For A Better India" rally in Hyderabad last week, which aims to raise awareness among urban youth to vote in the elections.

HAJIPUR, India - Mr Amarendra Kumar Bhagat, 21, works in a restaurant during the day and spends a good deal of his leisure time tracking the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi on social networking sites like Facebook.

Mr Bhagat, a waiter who has his sights set on a managerial job in a big city, hopes his fortune will swing for the better along with Mr Modi's in India's ongoing general election to elect a new Parliament and government.

"I went to Delhi and Jaipur, looking for a job after doing a course in hotel management. I didn't get one, so I had to come home," he said recently in an interview.

"But I am hopeful things will get better. Modiji will make a difference," said Mr Bhagat, who grew up in this town whose claim to fame is its small, sweet "chiniya" variety of bananas.

Some 20km away, in a nearby village called Halia, 19-year-old Mohammed Halim is getting ready to apply to colleges.

The young Muslim is no supporter of Mr Modi or his Hindu nationalist party, but only hopes that the next government will provide jobs for young people like him.

"For me, what is important is getting a job. I see a lot of unemployed youngsters and I am fearful. So I hope there will be change in the economy," he said.

Mr Bhagat and Mr Halim are first-time voters from Bihar, a state with one of the biggest populations of young voters.

In this election, one in five of India's 814 million voters is a first-time voter, between the ages of 18 and 23, the biggest proportion ever.

Connected by a common desire for a better future, these young voters have grown up in a decade of Congress-led rule which saw slow growth, rising prices, increasing unemployment and corruption scandals in its last term.

They have already made their presence felt on political and social issues ahead of the elections.

Thousands took part in an anti- corruption movement in 2011 led by social activist Anna Hazare.

Following the gang rape of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student in New Delhi in December 2012, they exploded in anger, taking to the streets and catching the attention of political parties.

They are a diverse lot, yet have key things in common.

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