The monsoons are still a few weeks away but a sea of voters in Uttar Pradesh (UP) is as joyous as a peacock dancing in the rain. Despite the heat, heart wrenching poverty and spiralling unemployment, voters are happy to participate in the on-going Lok Sabha elections in a dance of hope for a tomorrow that is better than their today.

One 25-year-old Lucknow resident told The Citizen that he wants a regular job so that eventually he can build his own home, and buy his own ration. This Dalit youth who is a university graduate does not like the idea of his economically depressed family receiving free rations to make ends meet.

On the eve of the sixth round of voting that takes place on May 25, the state is in the grip of a kind of “deewangi” (craze) in favour of a change that will promote a more dignified way of life in UP.

Uttar Pradesh is one of the most important political arenas in the country that sends 80 legislatures to the Lok Sabha. Despite its poverty and large population, UP’s one man one vote makes it the key to the corridor of power in Delhi.

It is said that all roads lead to Delhi from Lucknow. How many elected representatives from which political party will eventually make it from UP to Delhi is difficult to predict as this year’s elections seem to be unlike those held before. There are many guesses, but who will emerge the winner from which political party will be known only on June 4 when the results are announced.

The Power of Youth

The youth numbers over half the population of UP of 25 crore people. Today the youngsters are restless as well as hopeful that after the elections their chosen legislatures will help them live a better life. Especially first time voters are looking for a guarantee to an improved life in return for their vote.

The youngsters have defied soaring temperatures to attend election rallies in large numbers. In an attempt to reach out to Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav in Azamgarh’s Lalganj Lok Sabha constituency last Tuesday. A virtual tsunami of youngsters had broken down barricades and chairs in order to attract the attention of their leader.

The rate of unemployment is high in UP, and the sky-rocketing prices of essential commodities has made life difficult for the majority population in the country’s poorest, and most backward state. Today, the youth looks up to younger politicians like Yadav and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in UP, and Tejaswi Yadav in Bihar to provide them immediate employment.

The frustration of the unemployed youth has been simmering for a decade. Many youngsters have been twiddling their thumb for a while and this election season their despondency as well as their desire threaten to spill over.

Young voters who continue to dream of a more attractive future have thronged the election rallies of Opposition parties. In order to realise their aspirations, they are in search of a political leadership that will keep its promise of fulfilling their dream.

The excitement of watching politicians promise them the moon, the youthful crowd often disrupts a rally, breaking down barricades in order to reach out to favourite politicians to thank them for keeping their dreams alive. In Azamgarh, the crowd had become unruly and had destroyed property. The police were called to control the mayhem.

Before Azamgarh, the Phulpur constituency of Prayagraj had witnessed a wave of voters last Sunday to cause a stampede. The voters had broken into a sea of excitement and had tried to storm the dais during a joint rally by Yadav and Gandhi who were unable to address the crowd.

Unemployment is the single most important concern amongst the youth this election. Uttar Pradesh has a large population of young people, whose potential as a valuable resource for economic growth and development is still to be channelised. Researchers conclude that a lack of sufficient job opportunities, low quality of education and skill training programmes have led to a high rate of unemployment.

The youth remains an abundant asset in terms of skilled labour, entrepreneurship, and innovation, and knowledge to meet the multiple needs of citizens. However, if left unaddressed, the problem of the young in UP is sure to turn destructive.

Akhilesh Yadav The Leader

Akhilesh Yadav is praised today for living up to his concern for the Pichda (backward), Dalit and Alpsankhyak (minorities) and for an even distribution of tickets to contestants from different communities.

Yadav’s SP is in a seat-sharing agreement with the Congress and both are leading members of the INDIA alliance of opposition parties. The SP is contesting 63 seats while the Congress is contesting 17 seats. The SP contestants belonging to the Yadav family number not more than five while a large number of Kurmi, the second largest community belonging to the backward caste after the Yadavs are in the fray.

Traditionally the Yadavs and Dalits do not get along with each other but Yadav’s leadership seems to have inspired the two communities to favour the SP. The majority population even amongst the upper castes is unable to cope with unemployment and rising prices of essential commodities and is expected to cast its vote in support of an alternative to the present politicians in power.

The Good News

The good news is that UP seems to have woken up from slumber. People here are fearlessly speaking up against all that is not right in their life today. The voice of both the scientist and the spiritually inclined is critically shrill over the injustices of the day.

Professor Om Shankar, head of the department of cardiology at the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) is on a fast unto death, since last Friday. The doctor’s demand is for better facilities for cardiac patients who need angiography and an angioplasty. He is protesting against the delay in the allocation of extra beds for the use of poor people.

Popularly known as the people’s doctor on the campus, Shankar is sorry that so many patients are turned away from the hospital due to a lack of adequate accommodation. He is asking for extra beds for his department in the newly built block of the hospital at the cost of Rs 400 crore. He said that 41 beds have remained unused for the last two years while patients wait to be treated.

“Every day, we have 300 to 400 patients in the OPD. The patient load in cardiology has increased 20 times in the last 15 years. It is difficult to treat all the patients with limited beds,” the doctor told the media.

The appeal of well wishers is to address the doctor’s appeal, so that he is able to break his fast without endangering his life, and return to saving the life of his patients.

Then there is Mahant Rajendra Prasad Tiwari at the Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi who continues to warn especially politicians against the crass commercialisation, and the politicisation of religion today.