Under fire over Agnipath, BJP's youth, unemployment headache
While the protests forced the govt to announce a two-year relaxation in the upper age limit this year, a section within the party admitted that the govt has only been too aware of this simmering anger of the youth over its "failure in addressing joblessness”.
As violent protests against Agnipath, the Centre’s new short-term recruitment policy for the armed forces, spread to more states, with train coaches being set on fire and BJP offices and leaders being singled out for attack, there’s growing realisation in the ruling party that the problems of unemployment and the economy could snowball into a major challenge for the party and its government.
While the protests forced the government on Thursday to announce a two-year relaxation in the upper age limit this year, a section within the party admitted that the government has only been too aware of this simmering anger of the youth over its “failure in addressing joblessness”.
The Agnipath move came alongside the Prime Minister’s announcement of the government recruiting 10 lakh people in mission mode over the next 18 months. The announcement, which is expected to cost the exchequer Rs 54,000 crore a year, was made with an eye on the 2024 elections and was a bid to neutralise the Opposition’s criticism on the issue of unemployment.
The disquiet among the youth over unemployment was palpable in the run-up to the recent Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. However, by using a deft mix of religious polarisation and welfare politics, the BJP has managed to ensure that the discontent over unemployment doesn’t translate into votes against the party – in UP and elsewhere. It also helped that there was no credible opposition that could win over the youth or offer them an employment plan.
It’s no wonder then that while the BJP’s cultural and political agenda had a smooth run among the youth (abrogation of Article 370 and construction of the Ram Temple), the Centre’s attempts to push major economic reforms have always been met with resistance from the ground, with the youth playing a key role in this pushback.