ByÂ Shivani Gupta:
The idea of true democracy lies in its citizens owning to their duty towards participating in it, especially in a country like India. This is also a country where majority of its citizens are young and make for what one can call a youth constituency. The question here in this scenario of a democratic nation is; are youth people fulfilling their duty? Are they getting enough opportunities to participate in politics? Are they being heard by the politicians? Is voting on the day of the elections enough? The questions are especially pertinent in the context of the Lok Sabha elections of 2014 (announced to be held between April and May).
As a journey, the unManifesto campaign has been able to collect 60,000 youth promises on-ground and more than 5000 through online platforms. It has travelled through 20 states with political engagement of more than 45 politicians. One of the major aspects of this has been holding an event where the youth presents the manifesto (collected over a year) to politicians and make them engage with each promise on the manifesto. This just doesn’t give youth a space to be heard but makes politicians cognizant of youth demands. Of the many engagements and exciting stops that the journey has made, one was in Delhi on the 6th March 2014.
One of the ambassadors of the unManifesto journey, Vinit organised a small scale event in Delhi University with the university students. The theme of the event was to discuss the relevance and value of a manifesto, pre and post-elections. This event was marked by the presence of more than 120 students and 3 politicians from all the three major parties (seen as such in context of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections): Sagar Rayka (Senior Congress Leader) Sudhanshu Trivedi (BJP Spokesperson) and Pankaj Pushkar (Party Worker, Aam Aadmi Party).
The Politicians explained the importance of a manifesto as a sacred document which requires true commitment. They also agreed that the meaning and value associated with it needs to be highlighted in the society. They all claimed that manifesto in a critical part of elections without which competency and accountability of political parties will crumble. Therefore, they all accentuated the unambiguous attention of youth’s engagement with the manifestos. There was palpable tension between the politicians but they answered the questions encouragingly and motivated students to take part in the making and tracking of the party manifestos.
The meeting concluded with all three political leaders discussing the 10+1 promises handed over to them by the unManifesto ambassadors. Mr. Sudhanshu spoke of the manifesto as a document which has moral, social and emotional value which needed to be fulfilled. Therefore, he announced that BJP manifesto from this year is being called a ‘sankalp patr (promise letter)’ and not simply a manifesto. Mr. Sagar Rayka and Mr. Pankaj Pushkar concurred. Mr. Rayka focused on the specific demand of providing 33% reservation to youth in the parliament, out of the manifesto document presented by the unManifesto ambassador. He promised the students that he will communicate this demand to his party and try incorporating it in the Congress manifesto.
Similarly, Mr. Pushkar was overwhelmed by the promises and stated that the entire nation should be proud to see India’s youth engaging in politics at a deeper level. He assured the students and members of the unManifesto journey that these promises will be delved into by the leaders of the Aam Aadmi Party.
At the end of the event, the unManifesto journey was applauded and recognised by everyone. The compliments for the journey were one small part of the success of the unManifesto programme. The bigger part was politicians recognising youth demands and making a serious attempt at having them heard by political parties.