Young voters in Bengal want jobs, freedom of expression and an end to the alleged Syndicate Raj in the state.

 

New Delhi: Young and first-time voters in Bengal, who are seeking job opportunities, freedom of expression and an end to the alleged “syndicate Raj” in the state, are steadily veering towards Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections, as they feel that a Modi government at the Centre and a Bharatiya Janata Patry (BJP) government in the state, can bring prosperity and industry to Bengal.

Apurbo Hazra, an 18-year-old and a first-time voter from Kolkata, wants a good job for himself once he is out of college and believes that it is the Modi government at the Centre and a BJP government in the state that can bring prosperity and industries for Bengal.

“This government (the Trinamool Congress, TMC) has failed to create jobs in Bengal. There is hardly any industry in the state and for employment, you have to go out of Bengal. In the name of employment, there are only government jobs in the state and that too only for those who support the ruling party. For the last seven years that this TMC government has ruled Bengal, there has been no improvement in the jobs sector. My brother, who is a software engineer, works in Bengaluru. He had to move out because there was no job opportunity in Kolkata, leave alone any other city in Bengal,” Hazra said.

Rishikesh Das (name changed), who is a graduate from Barasat College and comes from a very humble background, said it is even difficult to openly talk against the TMC in his college because he fears he will be beaten up.

On the condition that his identity will not be revealed, he told this correspondent that there is a “silent protest” going on in West Bengal among the youth and against the Bengal government. According to him, these youths are all in favour of Modi. “There are thousands of people of my age who want to get a better life and they believe that if Modi comes to power at the Centre again, things will change for the better in Bengal. Nobody will tell you on record for the fear of being attacked and beaten up by mobs, but everybody has their confidential right to vote and it is in the EVM machines where they will cast their aspirations,” Das said. West Bengal has the maximum number of first-time voters in the country. The state registered 20.1 lakh first-time voters in 2019, according to the Election Commission’s data and both the ruling TMC and the BJP are trying to woo these first-time voters to their fold.

Many of these first-time voters and other young voters from the state have complained that the ruling TMC government is nothing but an extension of the erstwhile CPM which “instilled fear” among the voters and remained in power for 34 long years in Bengal.

A first-time voter from Bengal who did not wish to be named, lamented: “We had thought that Mamata Banerjee and her TMC will bring massive change and improvement in Bengal, but, in turn, what has happened is that it extended the reminiscent menace of the CPM and increased it manifold. For example, the tola baji (collecting money) and syndicate are so rampant that nobody is spared. They are even worse than the CPM.”

According to some college going students from districts like Birbhum, North 24 Parganas, and Jhargram, youths are camouflaging as TMC workers and attending rallies and meetings of the TMC to escape harassment by the ruling party. Some of the youths told this correspondent in confidence that they are not going to vote for the TMC. A third year undergraduate student from a college in North 24 Parganas district told this correspondent: “We are attending rallies of the TMC because we have no other option. If we stop showing our support for the TMC, all our facilities from the college will be stopped; our family members will be harassed and a strict vigil on us will be kept by the TMC workers on polling day. So it is better to carry the TMC flag and vote for the BJP. Nobody will come inside with us to the EVM machines; therefore, this is the best thing one can do.”

Some have also pointed out that this is exactly what had happened when the 34-year-old CPM government was thrown out of power. A professor from Bongaon College told The Sunday Guardian: “When the Left went out of power in 2011, you could hardly find people in the TMC’s rally then. Voters then carried the CPM flag, but voted for the TMC. It is time for a silent revolution in Bengal.”

 

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