Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States, held the belief that politics should be a part-time pursuit for all citizens. This involvement should encompass safeguarding the rights and privileges of others without any financial incentives and contributing to the preservation of the nation’s heritage. This concept, if embraced and implemented post-1950s, could have significantly reduced the nation’s reliance solely on elections and politicians to govern. When we consider not only the engagement of young individuals but also the participation of every citizen, the landscape could potentially transform. Particularly in a country with the world’s largest youthful demographic, the impact and transformation would be noteworthy.
Throughout India’s history, eminent figures, freedom fighters, and political leaders, from Swami Vivekananda to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Abdul Kalam, have emphasized the significance of harnessing the power of youth for the nation’s growth and progress. However, in the present context, the average age of those in leadership positions has remained consistently above 50 for the past few decades. It is evident that India boasts a youthful population, yet its leadership remains predominantly aged. Consequently, the question arises: What initiatives are being undertaken to augment youth involvement in Indian politics and infuse youthful leadership into the aging Parliament?
Importance and current phase of student politics in Indian politics
Since independence, student politics at the university level in India has had its own importance. From JNU, DU or AMU to Allahabad, Lucknow, and Banaras Hindu University, student politics has not only strongly raised the problems of students but has also included many important names in the country’s politics. However, Madan Mohan Malviya is also seen writing in one of his articles that students should not become a part of active politics until there is a major crisis in the nation. The argument behind this is that students should focus all their attention on their studies so that they can become such citizens who can contribute better to the progress of the country as intellectuals, enlightened or thinkers. However, Malviya’s visionary ideas were kept aside in student politics, and Loknayak JP’s movements gave birth to a whole generation of student leaders like Lalu Yadav, Nitish Kumar, Sharad Yadav, Arun Jaitley or Ravi Shankar Prasad. But which names will you remember in modern politics? Or how many names do you have to remember?
Apart from some current student leaders like Kanhaiya Kumar, Hardik Patel or Jignesh Mevani, there are hardly any names who have left their mark at the national level. This situation can be attributed to two primary reasons. Firstly, it stems from the mindset of senior leaders who may be reluctant to see student leaders play an active role in Indian politics. This reluctance is often evident in the indiscriminate legal cases filed against student politicians in recent years, which can be seen as an attempt to discourage their involvement. Secondly, Indian politics has been traditionally viewed as the domain of the educated elite, but this perception has often been tainted by self-interest, a focus on personal financial gains, tendencies toward extortion, and the quest for dominance. Unfortunately, there are only a few living examples that counter this social perspective, which, in turn, serves to dissuade educated youth from entering the field of politics.
Necessary steps to improve and increase participation at the national level
Swami Vivekananda emphasized the role of youth as the architects of the nation’s destiny. Therefore, it becomes the duty of senior and responsible leaders, as well as conscientious citizens, to fortify this vital democratic foundation through the strength of youth. However, the question arises: how can this be achieved when politics is often derogatorily described as a “swamp,” “gutter,” or “mud”? This perception even extends to events like the National Youth Parliament, which sometimes appear to lack recognition.
Given this context, while commending the government’s present initiatives, there is a pressing need to explore additional measures. These endeavors might encompass instituting compulsory political education, starting from the school level and extending to the university level. In fact, it should be made obligatory.
The introduction of a legally structured and well-organized electoral process, starting from primary and extending through middle and senior school levels to the university stage, is the fundamental step required to witness the emergence of a new generation of young and talented politicians capable of making significant strides in the nation’s political landscape. This is a pivotal development because it introduces politics as a viable career option for students, alongside fields like engineering, medicine, and the civil service. It is perhaps the most effective means through which students and youth can be inspired to envision a future in politics, contributing not only to society but also to their personal development.
Expecting young adults who have graduated from college to actively engage in politics is often impractical. The prevailing cultural norm has been to seek employment immediately after college, and as youth become occupied with job pursuits and financial concerns, they may perceive politics as a less attractive option.
Conversely, if students are introduced to the nuances of politics, both its positive and negative aspects, from a young age, and if they are encouraged to participate in mock elections or student council activities from the 5th to 12th grade, there is a substantial possibility of igniting their interest in politics. By embedding political awareness and participation in the educational journey, we can instill a sense of civic duty and political engagement from an early stage.
Hence, to increase the number of young politicians in India and involve them in the political system, it is imperative to make the electoral process mandatory from the school level through college and into university. This approach will not only encourage active youth participation in politics but also foster a new generation of leaders who are deeply rooted in the democratic process.