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Give Youth A Chance

Posted on February 20, 2012 in Specials

By Shreya Vajpei:

When India attained independence, the first Lok Sabha was represented by 140 young members who were below the age of 40 of parliament, which accounts for almost 25% of the total members in the parliament. But since then there has been a steady decline in the number of young members, with the fourteenth Lok Sabha being represented by just 61 young members. Our forefather, I am sure realized the importance of having young blood in the parliament and hence encouraged them to participate in the governing process. Unfortunately, the prior trend is missing now with majority of our MPs, rather than choosing retiring gracefully from the political arena, tend to cling more viciously to power contaminating the dynamics of socio-political process. This has deprived our political machinery of the much needed young understanding and ideas.

Making a global comparison, Tony Blair relinquished office as Prime Minister of Britain at the age of 54 after a decade in power. Take president Obama who is 47 years old. In contrast, our PM candidates for the 15th Lok Sabha were Mr. Advani who was 81 and Mr. Manmohan Singh who was 76. Politics in India has become a career for either pensioners or as a second career choice for actors, lawyers, civil servants, defence officers and other professionals. In most cases the younger lot in the political party are desperately trying to persuade and convince their own party that they are sufficiently mature to be in a position of power.

Part of the problem lies in an excessively hierarchical political tradition that treats a supine loyalty as the ultimate virtue in Indian politics. Unsurprisingly, in this environment, there is a latent hostility to newcomers. Very few politicians have had the grace and dignity to withdraw voluntarily to the backbenches once their term is over. Retirement does not feature in their political lexicon. While this approach might suit individual’s self-interest, it is open to doubt whether this serves the wider national interests. Another factor which draws them to cling to their political seat is the status, easy money, easy fame and easy power that come along. Consequently, the aged politicians of our country do not want to easily give way to younger people or any deserving new candidate for that matter.

This brings us to introspect on the question— whether we need young member in parliament at all? India is a very young and vibrant country with brilliant young minds who have the potential to become good leaders. With almost two-thirds of the population comprising of youth, one fails to understand how a 60+ year old can understand what the life of a 20 year old is like and enable their progress. If age was an important criterion, why is it that the corporate world is gracefully retiring top executives when they go beyond 60? Similarly why are the civil servants asked to exit when they reach 60? Sheer logic suggests that if the backbone of the government is provided by the civil servants and the politicians depend on them for every aspect of government functioning- you should continue to hold theses experienced civil servants in office even if they reach 60. But that’s not the case. Isn’t it because we require a bureaucracy who is abreast with the latest technological and management philosophies. The same argument can be extended to our politicians too.

Old politicians are more likely to be rigid in their views and highly prejudiced. They are likely to be unaware of the latest advancement that are taking place around the world over and will be less adaptable and inclined to embrace better ways of functioning and governance. They are likely to be more focused on traditional ways of functioning even if there are inefficiencies and loopholes in their approach. They are also very short sighted with majority of them more interested in their survival in power rather than shaping a better future of the country.

If given appropriate timely opportunities the young politicians will prove to be more energetic, enthusiastic, passionate, innovative, ambitious and much more abreast with the socio-economic advances in various facets of our country.

Undoubtedly, young politicians will think further into the future. They will have a vision way ahead of the five-year electoral plan of the current politicians, because they will still be alive then. It is their own future they are planning for and are more concerned with the long term picture than simply the next election like many older politicians who are already in power. According to a survey, the younger members of parliament have attained a much better attendance than their elderly counterparts. Need more be said? With so much in the favour of the young parliamentarians, do they not deserve a chance?