“Where there is no vision, there is no hope. George”
– Washington Carver
More jobs please! This is a simple message for India’s Gen Z, a key swing constituency in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, for politicians. As many as 130 million first-time voters—more than the population of Japan—will go to the polls due by May. A key issue for this electorate is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s failure to deliver on his promise of creating 10 million jobs a year—a pledge that won him the hearts of India’s youth in the 2014 elections. With hardly eight months to go for the Lok Sabha elections, number of voters who believe that job creation is Modi’s biggest failure have risen to 29 per cent from 22 per cent in January 2018, a recent survey said. Even Congress leader and former finance minister P Chidambaram has predicted that the biggest issue in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections will be unemployment and Narendra Modi government’s “incompetence to create jobs”. The former minister said nearly 6,000 teaching posts were vacant in central universities, while in the higher judiciary 410 posts of judges were vacant. While the issue of jobs may hurt Modi in the coming elections, it is also a reality that he remains hugely popular with the youth compared to any other politician, yet employment is the prime concern of young Indians.
Voter turnout in the 18-to-25 years age group was 68% in 2014—two percentage points higher than the national average. In 2014, Modi was the pull factor. The BJP’s promise of Acche Din (good days) struck a chord with everyone — from farmers to job seekers. The government’s performance on this promise has been patchy. The AccheDin promise may not have in 2019 the same kind of appeal it did in 2014. Given the situation, it is near to impossible to make new promises this time on employment generation. There is no doubt that the Modi government has proved its incompetence as far as creation of jobs is concerned while the government data suggests that more than 44 lakh new jobs were added between September 2017 and May 2018 and as many as 7.43 lakh new payrolls were generated in the month of May itself. Critics, however, are unwilling to buy the number. A glimpse about the job market scenario was noticed in March last, when the government announced 90,000 vacancies at the state-run Indian Railways, the nation’s biggest civilian employer. A staggering 28 million people had applied. This only suggests the paucity of jobs.
Is the Modi government, which came to power with the promise of creating 10 million jobs every year, aware that the unemployment scenario in the country is a ticking time-bomb and can prove to be disastrous in the impending elections? The government claims that it created large number of jobs that has prevented this (unemployment) from precipitating into a crisis. But the jobs being created may not meet the aspirations of the people, either in terms of the stability, or in terms of the quality of the job. Though it is a reality that Modi is still a hugely popular figure with the youth compared to any other politicians, but the issue of jobs may hurt him in the coming elections.