Want More Youngsters In Politics: Make It “Cool”

Posted on August 14, 2012 in Politics

By Shobhit Agarwal:

What is the first image that comes to mind at the mention of the word ‘politician’?

A khadi clad elderly citizen, in his mid-sixties, busy dozing off during important parliamentary debates, but one who speaks with full gusto and has the intensity of a teenager whenever he is on a character assassination spree of his opposition!

Well, chances are, more than 99% of the youngsters form the above mentioned imagery. The remaining 1% has been spared assuming that they belong to the families of those politicians whose imagery others form.

Day in and day out, we find the so called ‘experts’, across various debates on innumerable news channels, articulating how the country is in need of young leaders. They argue that the youth of the country, facing so many problems (no point even starting on the problems), should take up the mantle of bringing about a change themselves by entering politics.

To answer those experts, I have a 3-fold solution. The implementation of all the 3 folds of the solution will have a common impact which is discussed later. Let us look at those 3 folds once.

Fold – 1:
Have you ever come across an average Indian household where a mother tells her teenage kid — ‘Beta, concentrate on your studies! Unless you do so, you won’t develop the right attributes required to be a politician and serve your country.’ The chances of this happening are slimmer than India topping the medals tally at the Olympics.

Rather, what we get to hear is — ‘Beta, concentrate on your studies! Unless you do so, you won’t land up with a degree; no degree will mean no job. You will never become successful in life then.’

How does one expect youngsters to enter politics when right from the time of their birth (in some cases, even before birth), before they get a sense of right and wrong, their parents have already carved out their career path, which is as far from politics as the north pole is from south? To change the mindset of youngsters, our elders need to change and stop brainwashing them into choosing the conventional white or blue collared jobs, when their interest lay somewhere else. They need to project politics as something noble and which involves lot more hard work than collared jobs.

Fold — 2:
What’s in a name?’ — Shakespeare’s famous phrase from Romeo and Juliet. Nothing really if you are an ordinary citizen looking to lead a normal life. But for someone looking to enter politics, everything’s in the name, especially the last name.

What is with dynasty politics in our country? More than the body of work, it is a person’s last name that determines his entry as well as longevity in politics. It seems that the moment you are born with a particular last name, the forecasters begin making estimates of the time when you will be gracing the house at 7, Race Course Road, New Delhi (for those who don’t know, that’s home to our country’s Prime Minister ). People in positions of power, to fulfil their own vested dreams, project you as the Yuvraaj, waiting for you to usurp what is your ‘birthright’. As if that weren’t enough, the kind of flattery and bootlicking that it accompanies, leaves a very bad taste of politicians in the mouths of young citizens. (P.S. Rahul Gandhi and Digvijay Singh, the last few lines have been written with absolutely no reference to you or your actions).

The least which we can do is give the youngsters a level playing field. Assure them that if they are up to task, they have as much of an opportunity of heading the party than any other member, irrespective of his (last) name. The youth of today is very egocentric; you put curbs and limits on their growth by asking them to pave way for someone else’s victory march, chances are that they won’t show any interest. At the same time, you give them a freehand, and they fire in all cylinders with utmost sincerity.

Fold — 3:
I am not sure, but does the constitution state that all our leaders have to be dressed in kurta-pyjama or lungis and dhotis while attending Parliament or meeting delegates from foreign countries? As far as I know it doesn’t. Then why do majority of the politicians dress that way? Few would argue that most politicians are elderly and they prefer the traditional wear, but I have seen most of the young MPs in the parliament following suite.

The only conclusion that I can draw from it is that they want to uphold their ‘Indianess’. They don’t want to lose their connect with the rural voters. Nothing can be more absurd and sickening than such a thought process. A politician in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt or a suite can be as much effective (even more) than the khadi clad ones. Moreover, it won’t be bad for the cameras as well with viewers getting a sight of their leaders in regular clothes. With as much as it depresses me to say this (I was taught that ‘Appearances are usually deceptive’), I am pretty sure, the youth will form a stronger connect with the politicians wearing regular clothes (as they appear more normal) than the khadi clad ones.

The point I am trying to make is – to draw youngsters into the fray; politics needs to be projected as something ‘cool’. There is no dearth of motivated youngsters in our country, but at the same time, globalisation certainly has taken a toll on their way of thinking. Until and unless we (youngsters) don’t perceive something as cool, we will not indulge ourselves in it. As for the politicians – it won’t be a bad idea to shake things up a bit. Considering the crores that you have earned through the various scams and stacked in some Swiss locker- you can surely do better than a white cotton kurta pyjama.