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Wooing young voters

The Madhya Pradesh Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seems to have decided to woo the young voters. The state is to elect its new Vidhan Sabha in the month of November this year and since the last elections (2008), at least 30 lakh new, young voters have been added to the electorate. Besides youth the BJP has also announced a series of schemes to win over urban voters of the state.
 
A big congregation of youth was held on 16 January. Christened ‘Yuva Panchayat’, the rally was attended by thousands of youngsters and was addressed by the Chief Minister Shivyaj Singh Chauhan. Though the turnout at the event held at the BHEL Jamboree ground as part of the 150th anniversary celebrations of Swami Vivekananda was much lower than expected, the chief minister pulled all stops to woo young voters. He announced a ‘Maa Tujhe Pranam’ scheme under which youth from the state would be taken to borders of the country for a ‘patriotic’ visit. He also announced that the state government would provide bank guarantee for loans up to Rs 25 lakh to be taken by youth for starting their own enterprises. Moreover, the state government would also provide 20 per cent margin money for loans for up to Rs 50,000 and a five per cent loan subsidy for the first five years of the loan. Additionally, the government will stand guarantee for educational loans availed by the students from banks.
 
Students securing more than 85 per cent marks in the MP board Class XII exams would be eligible to get a laptop and the state government would also fund the cost of higher education up to Rs 15 lakhs at foreign universities for meritorious students, Chauhan announced. Under the ‘CM Yuva Contractor Scheme, youth who have done engineering from colleges in MP would be registered as contractors in government departments and provided training.

The chief minister also used the platform to reiterate that electricity would be provided for 24 hours a day across the state soon. The youth panchayat was in fact a BJP show, critics pointed out. Only youth belonging to the BJP youth wing were given opportunity to speak in the presence of the chief minister.
 
Congress spokesman said the party show was organised at the cost of government. It was also pointed out the decision to subsidise interest on loan up to Rs 25 lakh would burden the state’s finances.

Besides luring youth by a series of schemes, the chief minister has announced a highly controversial decision to win over urban voters. Addressing a public meeting at Indore, the biggest town of the state, he announced that all illegal colonies in the state will be regularised. Indore, besides being the commercial capital of Madhya Pradesh, is also the city the politics of which is dominated by the builders.
 
Both the major parties, BJP and Congress, patronise the builders. Kailash Vijayvargiya, the powerful Industries Minister is regarded as the patron-in-chief of builders. Indore is also notorious for its illegal construction activity. The builders are also regarded as the important financers of the political parties.

Observers point out that chief minister’s announcement will open a major source for raising funds for elections. Observers also point out that it will be a herculean task to legalise illegal colonies. Various factors including the intended land use of the illegal colonies, whether the land was reserved for green belt or the colonies have been built on industrial land would have to be considered.
 
According to tentative estimates there are 419 illegal colonies within the municipal limit of Indore, a majority of them fall under assembly constituency I, which is represented by BJP MLA Sudarshan Gupta. Nearly 4.5 lakh people reside in these colonies.  Incidentally, Chauhan made this announcement at a public meeting organised by Gupta to mark the end of his month-long ‘MLA at your door step’ campaign.
 
And as if that was not enough, Chauhan in another populist announcement said illegal hutments would not be removed till alternative arrangements are made. (IPA)
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