Congress eyes first-time voters for 2019 polls

Congress eyes first-time voters for 2019 polls

NEW DELHI: Catch them young – this is the mantra that the Congress is employing ahead of the 2019 general election. The party is gearing up to initiate a massive pan-India exercise to identify first-time voters, depute dedicated workers to pinpoint crucial youth issues and then frame a campaign to enrol the youth as members.
Be it teaching English to firstgeneration students from remote areas or sorting out paying guest accommodation of girl students from northeastern states or women’s security, the Congress is fashioning an entire campaign to catch first-time voters as soon as they step into colleges across the country.

Starting this month, the party will go down to the college level to hold workshops to identify young students and their crucial issues and then handhold them through a difficult period.

The end result the party is aiming for is to evolve as a party of Gen-Next. Being termed a “rebranding exercise” internally, the campaign would see the party’s students’ wing, National Students’ Union of India (NSUI), fan out to the grassroots to identify potential members among first-time voters. The internal target is to increase the young voters’ membership of the party by one million by the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

The outreach is being framed around three major heads – a rights-based “Je Suis Charlie” like campaign I-Am-India, targeting first-generation students and women. The party will depute four workers in each city to hold workshops and engage with students, understand their issues and help them. A beginning will be made in Delhi, before rolling out the exercise in Telangana.

Speaking about the campaign NSUI joint secretary Ruchi Gupta said, “I Am-India is a way to tell the youth that what defines you as an Indian is your citizenship, not your food and not your religion. We want to spread the message that Congress, unlike BJP, stands for inclusivity.”

Congress workers and volunteers would draw from their own experiences to engage with students. “We have roped in people who have been first-generation students. They have themselves faced the issue of language and even attire when they have stepped out of their homes to a higher education institution,” said Gupta.

“They would help the youth at each step and spread the political message.” The party also plans to take up the issue of women’s rights, especially moral policing. The campaign has been formulated after an extensive research by the party showed that a positive and constructive agenda and not mere criticism of the ruling BJP works with the youth.

“We will position ourselves as a party which stands for ‘Behtar Bharat’ (better India),” said a senior Congress leader.

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