New Delhi: The first political test of the Union Government’s Agnipath recruitment scheme will come by way of the BJP’S performance in this year’s by-elections to 3 Lok Sabha and 7 assembly seats.
Local body elections are scheduled in Madhya Pradesh and the BMC in Mumbai this year, followed by assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. In 2023, assembly elections are scheduled in important states including Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. These three states have traditionally been sending large numbers of youth as defence recruits. The question, therefore: Will the youth unrest over the Agnipath scheme take the shape of a movement that can harm the electoral prospects of the BJP?
Despite the one and a half year agitation by the farmers groups, the BJP was able to repeat its government in UP – a feat achieved after 32 years. But a slightly different picture emerges, when one looks at the fine print. The tally of the BJP in the UP assembly was reduced by 57 MLAs, while the strength of the SP-led alliance increased by 64. Therefore, it would be wrong to presume that the farmers’ agitation had no adverse impact on the BJP prospects.
The BJP could well go on to lose the three Lok Sabha by-elections in Sangrur, Azamgarh and Rampur. Even at the height of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity, these seats had traditionally remained with the Opposition parties. However, the margin of victory in these constituencies will indicate whether or not the Agnipath scheme has dented the BJP vote bank.
While the farmers movement was anchored by the Sanyukta Kisan Morcha, the youth protest is largely leaderless – making it more difficult for the government to start negotiations with them. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has largely been seen as shooting in the dark; announcing concessions such as increase in recruitment age and 10 per cent reservations in para military jobs for Agniveers. With the Agnipath recruitment scheme likely to start next month, it is possible that a large number of candidates will converge at recruitment centres. But the BJP’s big fear is this: The youth – passionate and committed supporters of the BJP so far – can start drifting away.
Journalist by accident, rail, travel and political buff by choice - dissenter by compulsion. Interested in policy and governance.