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Eyes On Youth

 


Ahead of the crucial Urban Local Body (ULB) elections, Odisha’s two major political parties -- Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) -- are busy doing serious home work. Like students preparing for their examinations, the parties are busy strengthening their organisations by launching membership drives. When there is no doubt about Naveen Patnaik being re-elected as BJD President, there is a hectic tussle in BJP as to who will replace Basant Panda.

Meanwhile, Naveen Patnaik has launched the party’s membership drive and the process will continue till October 31. The regional outfit has set a target of 70 lakh members. The state has a total number of 3.26 crore voters. The membership drive this time is significant for both the parties as they will face the urban polls in a few months. Naveen has meanwhile constituted committees to oversee the membership drive and ensure that everything runs smoothly.

BJD managers this time have undertaken a proper calculation and aim at including more youths as new members. While the support of farmers and women proved crucial for the Assembly and Lok Sabha polls, the youth vote holds the key to urban polls.

The regional party though has remained in power for five consecutive terms, this time it has ensured that the students’ union elections are cancelled as BJD does not want to divide the youth on political lines before the urban polls. BJD managers feel that BJP has already utilized the service of new voters (in the age group of 18-19 years) whose number is around 5.45 lakh. The new voters this time supported BJP following the Balakot airstrike.

Though the BJD government has formed 8000 odd Biju Yuva Bahini units in all the 6799 Gram Panchayats and 114 ULBs, whose membership has crossed 3 lakh, the youth tilted towards BJP. Naveen now wants that the youth should tilt towards the regional party. While BJD could successfully manage to get the votes of farmers through KALIA scheme and women votes through Mission Shakti, its Biju Yuva Bahini has not been so successful. Therefore, as the last effort to ensure youth votes, the party this time aims to make them primary members of BJD.

BJD government’s focus has all along been on rural votes. Since its programmes are not urban-centric, BJP got the scope to grow in small and large towns, though BJD retained some urban seats by impressing slum dwellers. Most of the major cities like Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Berhampur, Sambalpur and Rourkela have slums while small towns, whose number is nearly a hundred, do not have many slums.

Where there are fewer slums, there are less votes for Naveen’s BJD. However, these small towns are likely to play a major role in the ensuing urban polls. This apart, Naveen’s Jaga Mission has not yielded desired results as it is not implemented in letter and spirit. Therefore, the state government would like to woo urban voters now. It has announced to set up ward offices in all the urban local bodies. But, the monsoon has exposed the government’s Urban Development Plan as people suffer due to poor roads and lack of sanitation facilities.

BJD leaders also rejected a news report that claimed that the regional party has made Aadhaar number mandatory for the membership of the party. “No, we do not have any such plan to make Aadhaar number mandatory. People with voter identity cards can be made members of the regional party,” a senior leader said.

Opposition BJP, on its part, also targets the youth. It is working to ensure that the saffron party continues to get the youth support. Modi craze among the youth is a big hit. Though apart from a strong response to Pakistan, BJP has not many issues to woo the youth, it now wants to stress on investment which would create jobs for them.

However, the economic slowdown is a major hurdle before BJP which may not undertake any new scheme to draw the attention of the youth. Anyway, BJP is already ahead of BJD so far youth votes are concerned.

The saffron party, which has 36 lakh members, this time targets to increase it to 50 lakh, while BJD having 47 lakh members aims to touch the 70 lakh figure.

An analysis reveals that membership number is proportionate to the vote share of the party in polls. BJD having 47 lakh members could manage to get 44.7 per cent of votes in the Assembly elections, while BJP could get 32.5 per cent votes with its membership at 36 lakh. Congress whose membership number is not yet clear, finished third with just 16.12 per cent of votes in 2019, less by 9.6 per cent than the 2014 polls.

Therefore, it can safely be said that the membership number influences the voting ratio in elections. With 70 lakh members, BJD aims to capture around 60 per cent of votes in elections to be held in future, while BJP’s vote share is likely to increase when its membership figure touches 50 lakh. Interestingly, BJP was ahead in 84 out of 114 ULBs during the last Assembly polls. With more youth coming to its fold, BJD will have a tough time.

So far Congress is concerned, the party has not yet chalked out any plan for membership drive. The PCC chief is spending his time in foreign countries. The grand old party has already lost its glory due to mismanagement and Congress has turned into a platform for old people. No new youth is joining the Congress and therefore, the hand party’s future in urban polls appears bleak. 

There is also no effort to revive the party and no attempt to attract the youth. As we have already said earlier, Congress has been rejected by women, the poor, the middle and upper middle class and also the rich in the recently concluded twin polls.

So it is going to be a fight between BJD and BJP. Both have scaled up their efforts to raise their strength among the electorate, while Congress seems to be in deep slumber.
 
 
 


 



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