Youngsters enter politics - "finally"?

Another bunch of students are entering politics. If my memory serves right (screw that, am searching in Google) students entered politics in Assam in the late 70s (I couldn’t find anything concrete in Google, some pages hint that ULFA was actually a political movement which turned extremist later in the 80s). Anyway, the point is youngsters entering politics is not something new, it has happened in the past (it’s been happening since pre-independence days). So I don’t quite understand what they mean when they say “Students enter politics – Finally!” (because they are neither students nor is it the first time)
They – bloggers, people who post comments in rediff and other websites

Paritrana is the name of the political party started by IIT graduates.

That aside, let me get to the actual topic. Yes students have entered politics in the past, then what’s so special about this bunch?

→ They all have good credentials (not quite relevant to politics, exceptional nonetheless)

→ These youngsters have gotten in to politics not because they didn’t have other options or because they have a parent who’s already in it – hence one can expect an objective and agenda free work from them.

→ This quality cannot be attributed to those youngsters per se, but worth mentioning – the fact that Paritrana has been created at a time when internet users in India and Indians abroad is at a historical high. The reason I’m mentioning this is that a lot of those political parties started by students had to meet an early demise because of the lack of funding and support from the general public (including their fellow students). This time however, the internet community, I hope, would keep Paritrana’s ambitions alive till it can make some substantial footing in Indian politics.

If all the unrealistic and mostly illogical and stupid movies like Mudhalvan and Anniyan have done any good to the viewers, it’s this – Making them have a sense of guilt or responsibility for the status quo. Of course it’s mostly because it’s fashionable to act like you care and feel bad that you don’t contribute to the Indian society1. With more movies in the same theme and refined logic (like Rang De Basanti, Aayudha Eluthu/Yuva etc) and the burgeoning politically aware2 internet users, one can expect that this ‘sense of responsibility’ will remain for sometime. Another aspect is that these 'youngsters' belong to the intellectual elite of India - IIT grads; some of the members of this community are the wealthiest in India. Many IIT graduates already talk like they are the only ones who can think and see the hidden realities (no offence meant to the modest ones), so this is a good opportunity to exhibit their intellect/social view/altruism and boast it louder. In all Paritrana seems to be the perfect recipe for a powerful political party that is very likely to be run by the neo-elites of India – educated and self-assertive.

Paritrana is one of the rare things about which I have contradictory sentiments. The first time I heard about it I was extremely excited, but on the other hand I was cynical (my usual reaction to anything of this kind). I still feel the same way. I don’t have any misgivings about their intentions or political awareness, for I read that they’ve been engaged in some kind of social service for the past 3 years. And one of them has even been roughed up by the police, so yes they should be quite aware of the ground realities of the political and power system in India.

Then why am I cynical?

→ It’s very likely that all the 5 party leaders are Brahmins (I have no idea and personally I don’t care)
→ It’s also likely that future members and hence some of the top-level leaders will be Brahmins too (Why?3)
→ Brahmins are not the most welcome for most of the Indian electorate4. One of the main reasons why BJP is not able to make good inroads in the lower strata of the Indian society is because the latter is quite antagonistic to ‘upper caste’ people. Unfortunately for Brahmins they are the only ones identified as ‘upper caste’ by politicians. And for BJP virtually all its leaders are from the ‘upper caste’ (Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Vajpayee, Sushma Swaraj, the whole bunch).

→ So their influence or their effectiveness as a political party could be seriously undermined by what they unwittingly represent.

Like I had said earlier, personally I’m not worried about their caste or social class. True I will disagree with a lot of their stances, but any given day they’ll make better politicians than anyone else. Nevertheless I’m not too sanguine about the whole thing as most other bloggers either. It’s funny that I haven’t mentioned that I have dreamt of becoming a powerful politician since I was 10 or 11, I’ll talk about it in length in a different post probably. Anyway I was going to say that by the time one of the members of Paritrana wins a seat (of any kind) probably I would have too.

I hope they do well in the political arena soon.

I think it’ll take more than a decade before they can cause some real damage to other political parties, let alone establishing themselves as a powerful political party.

Read this Article (can access from most University campuses) or this thesis for an interesting outlook in the past, on this subject.

1 Whether they realize it or not, they do contribute the society by paying taxes, consuming goods and by being part of the literate crowd.

2 This new generation of internet users talks a lot of politics, but they mostly parrot popular opinion from some website. I seriously doubt how insightful they actually are.

3 Most IITans are Brahmins, am sure it is possible to gather some empirical evidence for that (though it’s out of my reach, and there is quite some generalisation involved). I want to stress two things here: a. By 'most' I don't mean Brahmins form the majority of IITans (though it could be possible) but that their representation is highly disproportionate to their general population and
b.I'm not suggesting that Brahmins get in to IIT by crooked means or it's their fault that others don't.
But why are most IITans Brahmins?- can only give a nomological explanation

4 India has had its share of Brahmin politicians at all levels, from Nehru through Rajiv Gandhi (Rajaji and Jayalalitha in Tamil Nadu). But a careful analysis will show that they all had other reasons which concealed their identity as a Brahmin. For the Nehru family it was Congress and the fact that Nehru was a freedom fighter (then taken over by the ‘Gandhi’ identity). For Jayalalitha it was MGR (but it helped her only during the 1991 election, later on her being a Brahmin has often been used against her by DMK, and I should say it has worked). Whether one being a Brahmin hampers his/her chances of becoming a successful politican in electoral terms is debatable. But my opinion is that if you don’t have other reasons to pull people in (like religion or language) your being a Brahmin will stand out and will be exploited with no hesitation by those who oppose you.

©2009 english-tamil