AAP draws jobless youth in Punjab

TEONA • Ms Rupinder Kaur Ruby, 27, is a political novice but her message is clear: jobs for young people. The law student tells a few hundred supporters in a dusty village square in the north-west Indian state of Punjab that the ruling parties have failed them.

"Punjab is not in a good place. And the youth are the most affected. They want to fight back," she said to cheers as the crowd covered her in garlands before she headed off to canvass for votes in a state election yesterday.

Ms Kaur is one of several inexperienced candidates that the Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party (AAP) is fielding to tap anger among an increasingly aspirational but frustrated youth, and to challenge Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

A strong showing by AAP, which won a handful of seats in Punjab in the 2014 general election and governs the city-state of Delhi, would serve as a mid-term warning for the still-popular Mr Modi as the economy fails to fulfil expectations.

Young people in Punjab have been hit hardest by factory shutdowns, amid allegations that corruption has hastened the economic decline of a relatively rich state of 28 million people.

Unemployment tops voter concerns there, according to a recent poll, and young people are less and less willing to work their parents' fields.

Recent opinion polls show Congress, India's main opposition party, in the lead in Punjab, ahead of AAP which has been criticised for failing to flesh out how it would boost employment. But the party is most popular among the youth.

Nearly two-thirds of India's 1.3 billion people are under 35 - a demographic "bulge" that will create the world's largest working-age population before 2050.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 05, 2017, with the headline 'AAP draws jobless youth in Punjab'. Print Edition | Subscribe