Monday, 9 December 2013

The Politics of Youth

With the rise of younger politicians in India’s political playground, Nisarg Kamdar profiles some of the players and gauges their skills on the field

While the Indian National Congress (INC) certainly has a more obvious youth presence and a greater number of youth politicians in the media limelight, one has to note with a tinge of regret that an extremely high percentage of those are a product of dynastic politics. Either their ancestors were themselves politicians, thus establishing a direct link, or were public servant officials during the Nehru-Gandhi reign and have successfully made the transition to politics – like Kanishka Singh, son of former foreign secretary and Arunachal Pradesh governor S.K. Singh, who has now successfully ingratiated himself in Rahul Gandhi’s inner political circle. In fact, a huge chunk of Rahul Gandhi’s close aides include sons and daughters of former loyalists.
The Congress’s youth battalion is led by Rahul Gandhi, though he seems to be perilously close to breaching the youth bulwark at 42 years. Some more popular faces are Sachin Pilot and Jyotiraditya Madhavrao Scindia, a descendant of the Scindia dynasty that represents Guna district in Parliament. Scindia is the present Union Minister of Power, a very crucial ministry considering the colossal power crisis pestering India. Other notable names are Jitin Prasada, Mausam Noor, Milind Deora, Priya Dutt and Navin Jindal – all descendants of families with a rich political heritage.

Sachin Pilot
Sachin Pilot (age 35) is the present Minister of Corporate Affairs. He represents the Ajmer constituency of Rajasthan, a constituency formerly represented by his father, and is a well recognized Gujjar community leader. He is the son of Rajesh Pilot, who was a Union Minister from 1991 to 1996.
To his credit, in 2009 when he was elected, he became the youngest Member of Parliament in the country. He is the first Union Minister to be commissioned as an officer of the Territorial Army, following in the footsteps of his father who had served as a squadron leader in the Indian Air Force before diving into politics. His father adopted the last name Pilot owing to this.
His education includes a Bachelor of Arts Degree from St. Stephen’s College, New Delhi, and an MBA from The Wharton School of Business, USA. In 2004 he married Sara, former J&K Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah’s daughter, deftly navigating heavy opposition from Sara’s family.
He stuck to his father’s tradition of holding an ‘Open House’ every morning where people from his constituency drop in to interact with him. One of his most pertinent qualities, as writer Aashti Bhartia notes in her debut novel Votes of Confidence, is his ‘self-conscious evenness’. Aashti notes that unlike most politicians, Sachin speaks in the same tone and dialect in his constituency as he would in Delhi, giving him a much sought-after air of credibility.
During his stint in the Ministry of Information Technology, he attempted to help non-English communities access mobile Internet. He was acutely aware of the fact that far greater resources needed to be devoted to develop locally relevant content in local languages.
Sachin has stated that he wishes to make the Ministry of Corporate Affairs a more approachable ministry that facilitates and “reduces the cumbersome nature of the red tapism and the time lag that we have sometimes”.

The BJP’s youth connect is primarily through its youth wing, the All India Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), which is its All India Student Council.

Anurag Singh Thakur
Anurag Thakur (age 38) is a member of the Lok Sabha, representing the Hamirpur constituency in Himachal Pradesh. He is the son of the present Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, Prem Singh Dhumal. Anurag has a Rajput lineage.
Thakur, unlike most of his compatriots in the Congress, completed his education in India itself. He claims to have dropped his last name in a bid to pre-empt any accusations of dynastic politics.
Anurag became the President of Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association at the tender age of 25 years, at a time when cricket administration is dominated by career politicians or established professionals. He is widely appreciated for enabling international matches to be played at the HPCA Stadium in Dharamshala, a challenge which was exacerbated by the fact that the stadium is situated at a height of 1,457 m above sea level amid snow-capped mountains in the backdrop.
From there on, Anurag worked his way up to become the President of the All India Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha. He was an integral part of the controversial Tiranga Yatra which aimed to hoist the Indian flag at Lal Chowk, Srinagar. It snowballed into a huge political charade and polarised opinion against him.
In spite of this, Anurag has an affable nature and inclination to interact with people. He has the knack of being able to converse to an industrialist and an activist for the rights of eunuchs in the same breath, which will hold him in good stead if one were to go by the age old adage – politics is the art of compromise.

Nationalist Congress Party
The two prominent youthful faces of the NCP, a party strongly rooted to Maharashtra, are Agatha Sangma and Supriya Sule. Supriya is the daughter of NCP head and Union Agricultural Minister Sharad Pawar while Agatha is the daughter of P.A.Sangma, a former Lok Sabha speaker and Chief Minister of Meghalaya, who recently lost to Pranab Mukherjee in the Presidential elections.

 Agatha Sangma

Agatha Sangma (age 32) is the youngest MP in the 15th Lok Sabha. She represents the Tura constituency of Meghalaya and won the 2009 parliamentary election as a candidate of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
Having completed her LLB from Pune University, she went to Nottingham University in the UK to complete her Masters in Environmental Management. At the age of 29 she became Minister of State for Rural Development, which made her the youngest minister in the 15th Council of Ministers. She planned to ‘incorporate environmental aspects and focus on vigilance in the work being done in rural areas’ during her stint in the Ministry.
Her appointment was also an important step in reintegrating the North East with the rest of the country. Conscious of the discrimination against people from the North East in the rest of India, Agatha delivered her speech in Hindi while wearing a traditional outfit, thus making a social and political statement.

Samajwadi Party
The Samajwadi Party (SP) is today responsible for the governance of India’s most populous state – Uttar Pradesh. And it does become imperative for them to have youth representation in the party.

Akhilesh Yadav
Akhilesh Yadav is the present Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. He is the youngest CM of UP at 38 years. He is the son of SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, himself a three-time Chief Minister and a former Union Minister of Defence.
Akhilesh studied engineering in Mysore before obtaining a Masters in Environmental Engineering from University of Sydney.
Akhilesh began his political journey in 2000 when he was elected to represent the Kannauj constituency in the Lok Sabha. He was instrumental in improving the SP’s tally from 97 in 2007 to 224 in the 2012 UP Elections to the Vidhan Sabha.
He was subsequently elected the Chief Minister of the state when his father responded to popular demand. His performance in office, though, has been underwhelming. The law and order maintenance seems to have deteriorated, the youthful exuberance is absent, the investment in the state is still lackadaisical and communal tensions seem to be rising.
Many sympathise with his situation as he is a youthful CM caught in a cabinet full of party loyalists with an inflated sense of ego he cannot afford to irk.

Other Notables

Kalikesh Singh Deo of the BJD

Kalikesh represents the Bolangir constituency of Orissa and is the son Ananga Udaya Singh Deo, a veteran politician.
Kalikesh graduated from St. Stephens College, Delhi and has played basketball and shooting at the national level.
Deo was instrumental in starting the Legislative Assistance for Members of Parliament (LAMP) programme. It began on an individual basis and was later institutionalized. The programmeis an 11-month fellowship, providing the youth an opportunity to work with an MP.
Deo is currently the convener of the programme. The program is an excellent opportunity for budding politicians to acquaint themselves with the functioning of the parliamentary system and also throws up a career alternative as a political aide to an MP.

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