Unemployment is such a burning issue in Bihar that even fringe forces in the state are ready to take it up.
Just as Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s massive roadshow for his Patna Sahib Lok Sabha candidate Shatrughan Sinha left the Moin-ul-Haq stadium here on Thursday along with a vociferous Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) convoy, a sea of people joined in, filling the Iftar-time evening sky with chants of slogans in support of Bihar’s Mahagathbandhan – the front that’s taking on Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Janata Dal (United) (JDU) and Lok Jan Shakti Party (LJP) in Bihar.
From Jail ka talaa tootega, Lalu Yadav chootega (prison locks will be broken open, Lalu [Prasad] Yadav will be freed) to chowkidaar chor hai (gatekeeper is the thief) to Mahagathbandhan zindabad (Long live Mahagathbandhan), it was an incredible show of support for Congress and RJD, that’s together fighting in 28 seats in Bihar, as thousands packed the narrow Nala road, not far from Sinha’s old locality of Kadamkuan.
A majority of the crowd seemed local residents and a sizeable proportion of them young men in their early twenties – some university students, some graduates, some government and bank job aspirants but almost all disgruntled at the current rate of unemployment across the country and particularly in their own state of Bihar.
“We feel cheated by how we were promised jobs and how nothing happened to that. This government has done nothing for people like us. Educated and meritorious students are sitting at home under this current regime,” said Prashant Kumar, 19, a first-year student of literature who has been preparing to crack the Staff Selection Commission (SSC), an annual examination conducted to recruit staff for various posts in ministries, departments and organisations of the government. Kumar said for most such exams, results are often not even declared. A claim Khaleej Times couldn’t independently verify but something his university senior and fellow SSC aspirant Vinay Kumar, 20, also admitted was true. And both said they voted for Mahagathbandhan in their respective constituencies in the previous phases of the Indian general election, in hopes that unemployment will be addressed by a regime change.
“At least this front (Congress-RJD) appears to think and work on this burning issue of unemployment unlike BJP at the centre and JDU in Bihar who brush it under the carpet with issues like patriotism and religion,” said Abhishek Singh, 26, a graduate who is currently looking for a job. “For us, our mandate is for jobs for youth. Baki mudde doosre side par (leave other issues on the other side),” he added while referring to the Congress manifesto released for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections with a focus on filling up to 2.2 million government job vacancies by 2020. Congress, in its manifesto, has famously pledged to give the highest priority to protecting existing jobs and creating new jobs even as unemployment rate (6.1%) in India, according to a report released this January, is at its highest in 45 years.
“All Modiji talks about is Balakot. But that’s gone. That’s past. The main issue in states like UP and Bihar today is unemployment and our PM seems to be ignoring that,” said Prashant Bhushan, another banking job aspirant who claimed it takes up to four attempts (and as many years) to clear an exam and secure a job because there aren’t enough vacancies. And now the youth like Bhushan allege that Modi, who infamously promised 10 million jobs every year while seeking votes in the 2014 election campaign, hasn’t fulfilled his promises and “looks the other way” when it comes to this issue.
“And what has hurt us even more is that he doesn’t even want to rectify that in his re-election bid in 2019,” said Amit Kumar, a graduate engineer and a government services hopeful while taking a dig at the Sankalp Patra, BJP’s 2019 manifesto that, he alleges, ineptly wheels over this provocative crisis. All the BJP manifesto says regarding unemployment is that it will create “new opportunities of employment by providing more support to the 22 major ‘Champion Sectors’ identified as the main drivers of Indian economy”. “Hum nahi banenge bewakoof dobara (We won’t be fooled a second time),” added Kumar.
Unemployment is such a burning issue in Bihar that even fringe forces in the state are ready to take it up in the run to the final phase of election in order to woo the educated but jobless vote bank who refuse to be split on the lines of religions or caste. “It’s got nothing to do with desh bhakti (nationalism). It’s got nothing to do with Ram Mandir. We want jobs. We want vacancies to be filled up by the right candidates and we will vote for whoever is taking it up for us,” said Akhilesh Kumar, another angry young voter from Patna Sahib that has an electorate of little over 2 million – a significant proportion estimated to be young, unemployed students like Kumar. “At least Rahul Gandhi has been thoughtful enough to highlight this issue in his manifesto ahead of the election and he is one person who doesn’t seem to lie.”
Just two days before, Ghanshyam Tiwari, Samajwadi Party’s Lok Sabha candidate from Karakat – that also goes to polls on Sunday like Patna Sahib and six other Bihar constituencies – and party’s national spokesperson, wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking time to submit bio-data of a large number of unemployed youths in his constituency in Bihar.
Earlier this week, Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi told a local TV channel that unemployment wasn’t an issue in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections because according to him the ruling coalition has helped create jobs by extending electricity to its remotest villages. But youth on the streets of Patna say it’s a hogwash and they cannot be fooled a second time. “In Bihar, the youth will vote for employment, say Patna’s youth.
Eight constituencies go to polls in the seventh and the final phase of India’s general election on Sunday, May 19.