Youth in politics

Politics in India is generally perceived as a domain dominated by elderly grey-haired men dressed in a white kurta and something that is not suited to the young and educated masses.
Youth in politics

Rahul Gupta


Politics in India is generally perceived as a domain dominated by elderly grey-haired men dressed in a white kurta and something that is not suited to the young and educated masses. India, a country with 1.3 billion people, makes it the second-most populous country in the world but with an average age of 29, it has also one of the youngest populations globally. This vast resource of young citizens exercising political rights makes the country the youngest democracy today. Hence we term India as "Youngistan" too but it is very ironic to see the potential youth of the nation detaching from participating in the political system which constitutes a major part of the population.

According to statistics, 65% of our population is below the age of 35 and only 6% of our leaders fall in this group and can be called "young leaders". In the 2019 Lok Sabha election, an estimated 82 million first time voters exercised their franchise electing 64 MPs under 40,221 between 41 and 55 years accounting for 12% of youth leaders in the lower house. Though this doesn't exemplify that one should never elect older people in the house, these statistics distinctly demonstrate the substantial shortage of young creative minds and talent in the realm of politics. While the young are significant for their innovative ideas and enthusiasm, the older members are essential because of their experience of dealing with matters with great patience.

Gazing upon different spheres of life, we get to witness more enthusiastic youths actively participating in science, sports, art and culture achieving new heights with their extreme vigour and tireless efforts but this field still remains trapped in the vicious circle even after 74 years of independence. Whereas youth, since pre-independence has played an active role in the country's political process by participating in reform movements, social movements etc. However, this involvement has been informal and very few actually opt for formal participation in politics.

In a country, where a 27 years old entrepreneur becomes a billionaire, a 23 years old leads the senior national cricket team and a 21 years old graduate becomes an IAS officer, why is it restricted to be a young politician and lead our nation to a path of progress? Despite all these achievements in different disciplines, politics is still perceived to be a profession not amicable for the outsiders due to the stereotypical thought of having a favourable association with the veterans to seek progress in the field.

While India's private and other sectors have encouraged the entry of talented, ambitious young individuals, retail politics has largely relied on traditional local leaders who have paid their political dues at the grassroots.

In our society, parents generally have a traditional approach of livelihood emphasizing more on conventional and lucrative career options that offer life and leisure to the masses. The primary reason for the lack of participation of youth in politics is the current deterioration of its atmosphere by wealthy and greedy people. Politics today reeks of corruption, dishonesty and have become a game of making money and power. The malpractices of politicians replacing the feeling of patriotism with familial, casteism erode away positive and innovative minds from the orbit of politics. Dynastic politics and nepotism debilitate the current political scenario to another extent. Though we find a few young politicians, most of them come from high-profile backgrounds with resources and legacies of royal political families.

But what keeps youth less visible in politics? Firstly, it is due to the lack of formal institutionalized structure that creates leaders to cater to the needs of the nation. National competitive exams are held each year for induction into the Indian Administrative Service and the Indian Foreign Service but no such exams are held for entrance in politics. Amusingly, there are just two criteria for being a legislator, one needs to be a registered citizen of India and must be above 25 years of age. Secondly, this arena demands a hefty sum of money eventually depending on mega usurers hence depriving youth of the middle class. Thirdly, the polluted floors with heinous crimes of politicians and corrupted desks dissuade more potential minds.

Initially, college and university elections draw down a trivial picture of mainstream politics among aspiring students. Both in and beyond the walls of the classroom, institutional elections become a moment of learning for the students making them understand the significance of participating in a healthy and fair democracy. Student elections are assumed as a medium of building future leaders addressing issues that affect younger minds and candidates who actually run in student unions or bodies have a higher probability of running political office later. Campuses engage youth in the decision-making process through sound youth voice forums and volunteering opportunities in social sectors engaging them in understanding the real-life problems of different sections of people. Institutions work as a centre of developing civic education and democratic values by setting up student elections. Though in student politics, illegitimate expenditure, criminalization and interference of political parties must be minimized and an ideal diligent leader must be sought to encouraging a pristine form of political participation.

Significantly, Assam has been a land of young vocal leaders, right from leading one of the largest student movements in the country to electing the youngest person to hold the Chief Minister's office of any state, the vibrant minds have proven to be responsible natives of the region. However, with lack of an accountable approach of leaders in bringing out a conclusive proposition of any agenda and rather sticking into it just for securing seats in elections have faded away from the likes of people, losing an appeal in the entire political system. While sharing a history of young leaders in the state, the current Assam Legislative Assembly accounts for just 2.4% of legislators falling in the age group of 25-35 years.

The doors of the world's largest democracy must be more distinct and clear, erasing the pollutants from the arena in paving a new path for strong and healthier minds. Inducting educated youth from different forms of life brings out issues like climate change, development of science and technology along with other pertaining issues. Governments and political parties should undertake institutional reforms to alleviate youth representation as it is the need of the hour to bring out more constructive ideas in the long run of development. While we celebrate being the youngest democracy, it also becomes very important to acknowledge the basic fundamentals of the system as someone very well said, "If good people are not willing to enter politics then we must stop complaining about bad people ruling us".

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