Like in a few of my previous edits, this time too, I thought of writing on a topic, which is close to my heart. And that is the irreducibly fundamental fact that it is none other than the educated youth who, by joining mainstream politics, can not only salvage the ever deteriorating image of the Indian political class, but also arrest the continuous corrosion of Indian democracy. No doubt, it is easier said than done, for the kind of fractious political environment that our disputatious leadership has created over the years in itself has become the biggest deterrent for any educated and equitably honest youth to take politics up as a scrupulously dignified career. In fact, over the years, the entire trenchant political environment has been constructed in such a discordant manner that it has managed to keep young, potently dedicated and benevolent youth away from it. If that is not the case, then how does one justify that almost 25 per cent of our Parliamentarians have criminal backgrounds!!
Historically, though, this was not the case. Not that it was any better ever, but in the 1950s, the average age of Rajya Sabha members was around 50, which shot up to 59 by the turn of the century. And I’m sure by 2009 it would have gone up by a few more months. Similarly, the average age of the 13th Lok Sabha has been around 55 years! Here again, the average age has been on a constant rise. The average age during the first Lok Sabha was 46 years. The matter of fact is that Indian democracy has invariably posed a classical dichotomy with respect to Indian demographics. A nation wherein more than 70 per cent of the population is less than 40 years, has a Parliament which houses 80 per cent of its politicians over the age of 70! Probably no other nation reflects such a stark irony – for example in the United Kingdom, there were only two Prime Ministers (Winston Churchill and James Callaghan) who crossed 70 while holding their office! But then it would be wrong to state that Indian Parliament is completely bereft of youth. In the 14th Lok Sabha, some 36 young debutant MPs got elected and bettered the average age factor for the Lok Sabha!!
Had these 36 young MPs not been elected this time, I’m sure Lok Sabha would have been declared dead, statistically (as the average mortality rate of Indians is 64). But then, other than lowering the average age of the Lok Sabha, the young MPs did hardly anything to bring in any noteworthy political change for the people of this nation. And this ought to happen, for most of the young MPs who made it through had a political legacy behind them. And that is the reason, as per a PRS India report, that young MPs hardly participated in the Lok Sabha proceedings (they accounted for 11 per cent of the seats and participated for only seven per cent of the debates). Whereas on the other extreme, MPs above 70 years, accounting for 10 per cent of the house, participated in 10 per cent of total debates. The report also states that the average attendance of MPs in the 25-40 years age group, which was at 70 per cent, was the lowest. What’s even more unfortunate is that during the Budget Session, which lasts for 28 days and is of national imperative, the average attendance of the very same young MPs was a mere 62 per cent.
Though as a nation we might have succeeded in electing a few of our youths in the Parliament, it has been an act of mere tokenism. For neither do they seem to possess any zealously rousing vision, nor do they presumably posses any precipitously striking leadership skills, which is pretty evident from their spiritless attendance and incurious participation. In fact, with the election having been declared and with almost all political parties creating all kind of noise about educated youth getting into mainstream politics, particularly post 26/11, I do not contemplate much to happen. At best, a few political parties might succeed in getting a few youth elected; but then that’s it. The delinquent problem lies in the fact that it is prohibitively impossible for any educated and erudite youth with the right vision and leadership skills to contest an election independently by themselves. For not just does it require considerable tons of money, but on top of that, if someone has to get any closer to winning, then one has to necessarily be a part of existing political ideologies.
The real catalytic change can happen only when political parties in power have a prepotently dynamic youth oriented perspective. They need to not just invigoratingly encourage educated youth to participate but they need to also to have a systematic selection and funding process. It is only then that there would be a true vitalizing transformation in the political system that would pave a path for a fundamentally strong and prosperously efficacious democracy.
- 05 March 2009 |
- Arindam on Indian Politics