The campaign of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi stood out for several catchy slogans. He promised, for instance, to do in 60 months the work the Congress had not managed to deliver in 60 years. He sold tea, but he would never sell out his country, he said.
By far the most alluring of all his promises, particularly to young voters restless for some sign of hope, was his promise of bringing in “achhe din” or “good days” if voted in. The phrase caught the imagination of young voters across the country, who voted en masse for the idea of Modi and not just for the promises of their local candidates.
Two years later, where does the dream of achhe din stand for the people who voted for him?
One of these voters was Rajyasree Ithape, resident of Chincholi, a quiet, picturesque and almost entirely dry village in the middle of the Deccan plateau in Beed district in central Maharashtra.
This general election was the first in which Ithape was eligible to vote. Her vote, like many others, was for Gopinath Munde of the Bharatiya Janata Party, who won the 2014 election from Beed.
Munde was no lightweight riding simply on Modi’s tail. He was already a significant leader in his own right – this was his second consecutive Lok Sabha win from Beed and he was the deputy leader of BJP in Parliament. But Ithape said her decision was influenced by the BJP's prime ministerial candidate.
“I voted for Modiji because I thought he would bring in a lot of change,” said Ithape. “I thought he would be better for people like us.”
Ithape is in the middle of a pharmacy course at a college in Ahmednagar and has a full year to find a job. That weekend, she was at home for an extended break, but was already eager to return to the city.
“I like to live in the city – I can do what I like,” she said. She looked at her phone without signal and laughed. “I have been home only for one day and I am already bored.”
She too wants change and has high hopes from Modi. Her pharmacy course, for instance, does not come cheap. Her parents had to take a loan from Central Bank of India to raise almost Rs one lakh for the two year diploma. She will have to repay this after she gets employed – for which Ithape urgently needs a job.
For now, there is a wide gap between her expectations and job opportunities right now, though she said she was not going to worry about that yet.
“It is not fair to judge Modi so soon,” she said. “I think it is important to give him some more time. Only two years are over and there are still three left. All these changes will come slowly. It won’t all happen together.”
Meanwhile, the promise of “achhe din” had soured for young men at a cattle camp outside Ashti town, just a few kilometres away.
“Kab aenge ye achhe din? [When will the good days come?[” asked Nana Pokhale, a 23-year-old farmer at the camp. “Upar jaenge tab?" When we die?
The Marathwada region in central Maharashtra is in the grip of the fourth consecutive year of drought. The BJP-led government at the state has opened cattle camps across three districts in Marathwada, including Beed, where Ashti lies.
Pokhale's family has moved six of their cattle to the camp, and the young man stays there to take care of them. The cattle of two of his childhood friends occupied stalls nearby. The three went to school together and have never been very far apart from each other.
One of them, Santosh Kakde, had had to do the rounds of government offices for several weeks to be able to sign up for the police examination.
“Modi sarkar said there would be fewer entry forms for the police and army,” he said snidely. “Maybe he should have told that to our government offices.”
The three young men were irked at the falling prices of milk which pinched their families even more in the time of drought, the difficulty of getting work under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act to plug their incomes, and frustrated at the lack of opportunities Beed had for young men not eager to follow their parents into agriculture.
Modi let us down, said Pokhale. “He promised that he would help the poor, but we’re not getting daily NREGA work, forget other jobs," he said. "Other people can still hope to improve, but not farmers like us.”
Last year, Pokhale added, their block completed work worth Rs 30 lakh through NREGA. This year, nothing has happened. While they were concerned about cattle prices falling because of the ban on beef, they were adamant that no farmer worth anything would sell to butchers.
Like Ithape, 2014 was the first general election in which Pokhale and his friends had voted. The young men had seen their families vote for the Nationalist Congress Party led by Sharad Pawar. But they switched to BJP. Unlike Ithape, who remained a silent supporter of the party, the young men attended the BJP’s political rallies and actively championed its cause.
“We left the NCP because we thought they were too corrupt and we wanted to teach them a lesson,” Pokhale said. "Rashtrawadi khate the par humein bhi khane dete the. Modi akele hi khaate hain. The NCP was corrupt, but also gave us a share. Modi keeps everything for himself.”
All were unanimous on one thing. Said Pokhale: “If there is no change for us, we will just switch back to NCP.”
This is part of a series on what young Modi voters feel about the government two years into its term. You can read the second part here.