‘Youngistan’ politics

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Illustration: Anand Naorem

YES! THIS does seem to be the new ‘it’ word or ‘now’ word of Indian politics. ‘Youngistan’ seems to define India and also the new parliament that has been sworn in. However, I wonder if we are actually referring to the real ‘youngistan’ when we speak of these brand new squeaky clean twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings who are sitting on the treasury benches of the Lok Sabha.

Your rational mind would think that since they are new and buzzing with energy and ideas, it would be great to have the youth brigade taking policy-making into their hands. That does sound interesting, but does this cheery proposition reflect the truth?

Our history is full of instances of scions of politically influential families and corporations crafting policy. Some may argue that this is a situation analogous to Akbar the Great, who, against his wishes, was crowned emperor at the impressionable age of 16. So what if the titles are no longer around? Isn’t it wonderful, some argue, to see so many modern- day emperors and kings sitting pretty?

A pretty situation only if they had been given nothing but a fair chance. Imagine a commoner, a karyakarta who spends around 10 years in the party rank and file, doing zindabad-murdabad, only to find out that mantriji does not even bestow on him a look of recognition. By the time this person even comes close to finding the confidence to make an attempt to ask for a ticket, he’s already past his ‘youth’, perhaps 40 years old or more. Can parties that are cadre-based be compared even remotely to parties that are family enterprises?

And do these baba logs really come armed with enough knowledge of the length and the breadth of the country? Only time will tell if the criticism that actors and celebrities bear for not having enough experience also applies to the children of ministers. Does being born in a minister’s family automatically qualify the child for the post of a minister in Parliament?

This is something the country needs to ponder on and decide. What qualifications for public office are necessary in order to bring about a progressive democracy?

In a country where almost 40 percent of its vast electorate is below the age of 35, I do feel elated at the thought of having the youth manning the structures of power. However, I only wish that we also saw those who have felt the bare earth under their feet and have come up the hard way elevated in the same manner.

Quite a few of the new breed argue that a famous surname can only ease the initiation and that it is difficult to nurture a constituency.

Yes, this is so, but for others, years of toil and difficulty might turn out to be their initiation to higher office – or more often, may just remain years of toil and difficulty.

Can cadre-based parties be compared even remotely to parties that are family enterprises?

Our netas will also have to understand that the India that is moving towards a youth revolution isn’t just made up of urban centres where, by the time one is a twenty-something, one may be earning thousands of rupees from working in a BPO or as a consultant. A major part of this youth revolution is, in fact, taking place at the rural level. Can the baba log actually reflect the aspirations of the rural youth – of, say, a guy from a remote village in Latur or Marathwada?

If God was in Gucci then our Prada and Prado MPs would probably succeed. I wish them the very best and hope they remember the blood and sweat of the thousands who tried and tried and perhaps came close to getting there – but devoid of a surname, never got close enough.

Tripathi is National Secretary, BJP Youth Wing

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