regular-article-logo Wednesday, 19 June 2024

Vadodara polls: Cong promises 'date destinations with coffee shops'

The Bharatiya Janata Party has already accused the grand ol' party of polluting the 'sanskaari nagri'

The Editorial Board Published 21.02.21, 01:44 AM
Representational image.

Representational image. Shutterstock

In a tea-loving country, a lot can happen over coffee. This seems to be the hope behind the Congress promising, among other things, “date destinations with coffee shops” as meeting places for “youth, students, couples” in its manifesto for the municipal corporation elections in Vadodara that are taking place today. The aim, apparently, is to give the weaker sections of the society a recreational space to unwind and relax — leisure and privacy are luxuries that they can seldom afford. The move is significant because of the Congress’s wobbly record of choosing to prioritize populist sentiments over a sustained commitment to a progressive ethos. The government led by Rajiv Gandhi had overturned the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Shah Bano case; this streak of cashing in on conservatism for the sake of electoral profit resurfaced recently when the Congress in Kerala promised to bring a law to punish women of child-bearing age if they were to break the ‘age-old traditions’ of the Sabarimala temple.

The Congress’s decision to stand its ground on its manifesto — the Bharatiya Janata Party has already accused it of polluting the “sanskaari nagri” of Vadodara — is not the only matter of importance here. A poll manifesto can, often, be a sign of the times. Love jihad makes all the noise in a nation that has unleashed demons on love. Consensual, adult relationships are often demonized in India, especially when they are forged by cutting across the barriers of caste and faith. The BJP’s branding of coffee dates as ‘uncultured’ and the laws passed by BJP governments criminalizing interfaith unions are signs of a worrying regression. This kind of political meddling infringes upon the young adults’ right to freedom and privacy; both are fundamental rights in the eyes of the Constitution and courts.

There may be a reason why the Congress has decided to mould the personal into the political. There is some evidence to suggest that the popularity of the BJP and its ideas are on the wane among the youth. In 2019, a post-poll survey had showed that among the youth, except in non-Hindu communities, the BJP had found acceptance across caste groups, but by 2020 as many as 46 per cent of Gen Z and 44 per cent of millennials were no longer enchanted with the party. This does not mean that their support has shifted towards the Opposition. This makes it all the more important for parties like the Congress to endorse affirmative policies that can reflect and meet the aspirations of Young India. Reaching out to the youth might serve the Congress well in a country in which 45 million new, young voters played an important role in shaping the outcome of the last general elections. The youth have acquired a critical mass in global politics. Political outfits across the world are attempting to include issues such as unemployment and climate change in their manifestos to win the allegiance of this constituency. The Congress, for once, seems to have gauged the pulse of the moment.

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