Can entry into politics be a ‘return on investment’ ticket?
Know what young leaders think about youth participation in politics and what steps they suggest to increase the same
In a captivating and thought-provoking event that unfolded at Vigyan Bhavan University of Mysuru on August 21, 2023, in honor of International Youth Day, a gathering of dynamic young political figures came together to underscore the vital role of youth in shaping the future of governance and politics. The event showcased an array of distinguished speakers, including:
Mr. Darshan Puttaniah, MLA, Melukote Assembly Constituency
Ms. Aishwaraya Mahadev, Youth Congress leader and AICC Spokesperson
Mr. Kavish Gowda, Educationist and Young Politician, Mysuru
The panel discussion was moderated by Dr. Basavaraju R Shreshta, the India Coordinator of the Delivering Democracy Working Group of G20 C20 and the Executive Director of GRAAM.
Participation of Youth in Governance and Politics
Darshan Puttaniah set the tone for the discussion by highlighting the critical importance of active youth participation in politics. He emphasized, "Our democracy thrives when the voices and energies of our youth are harnessed. Today’s youth possess a unique perspective on the challenges and opportunities facing our nation. Their participation is not just a privilege but a necessity for our collective progress." In response to questions from young participants, Mr. Darshan added, "Movements such as farmers' (Raitha Chaluvali) are key to strengthening democracy and governance, and the Karnataka Raitha Sangha has developed a framework to engage more youth in these movements."
Affirmative Action and Reservation for Youth
Dr. Basavaraju Shreshta cited global examples of countries like Africa offering reservations for youth to ensure their adequate representation in politics. He also mentioned Turkey lowering the age for contesting elections to 18 years and Austria lowering the minimum voting age to 16 years. Dr. Shreshta presented a stark contrast, stating, "India has the largest youth population, with a median age of 29 years, yet the average age of a directly elected Lok Sabha representative is 55 years. This needs to change. In the current Lok Sabha, only 4 MPs are below 30 years, with none in the Rajya Sabha due to candidacy age limits. The situation in State Legislative Assemblies and Councils is not much different."
Aishwaraya Mahadev voiced the need for affirmative action in favor of youth, saying, "It is essential to ensure youth participation in the political ecosystem by reserving seats in all elections, similar to the reservations we have for women. We need to secure positions for young leaders in central, state, and local democratic structures. Unfortunately, the women's reservation bill introduced in parliament when the UPA Govt was in power is still pending."
Politics as a Service to the Community
Ms. Aishwarya Mahadev encouraged the youth to take small but meaningful steps like organizing cleaning drives in their local communities to bring about larger socio-political change. Kavish Gowda, drawing from his experience as a young politician and educationist, emphasized the essence of politics as a means to serve the community. He stated, "Politics should not be viewed as a career but as a path to serve the people. When young leaders enter politics with a genuine desire to bring about positive change, they can transform the lives of countless individuals. The 'return on investment' formula should not be applied in politics."
Active Engagement within the Political System
All three speakers unanimously stressed the significance of active participation within the political system to bring about meaningful change. They asserted that blaming the political ecosystem from the sidelines is counterproductive and that real change can only be achieved by being integral parts of the system. They encouraged youth to be active agents in delivering democracy at the grassroots without succumbing to selfish and monetary ambitions.
Youth's Role in Driving Political Change
The panelists acknowledged the need for greater political will to bring about political change, but they also emphasized that active youth participation could be the catalyst for change in the political landscape. They encouraged youth to leverage unique programs like GRAAM’s Youth for Governance fellowship, which can equip young individuals with knowledge and informed opinions as they step into governance and politics. They also highlighted the power of social media as a tool to hold the political class accountable.
The event served as a platform to inspire and motivate young individuals to actively engage in governance and the political process. The speakers left the audience with a powerful message: the future of our nation's governance rests in the hands of its youth, and it is both their duty and privilege to shape it positively.
Apart from the panel discussion, the event featured several activities, including a street play competition, poster presentation competition, quiz competition, and a reel’s challenge. Over 325 youth from Mysuru participated in these events, all revolving around themes such as raising awareness about social equality, promoting civic responsibility, and encouraging volunteerism among young participants.
The program concluded with a valedictory ceremony where prizes were distributed to the contest winners. Mr. Raghavendra Udupa, Trustee-Soften, Infosys Mysore CSR Wing, Sr. Delivery Manager, Infosys, and Dr. Basavaraju.R Shreshta, Executive Director GRAAM, were guests, and Dr. Jyothi H.P, Chairperson Department of Studies in Social Work University, chaired the Valedictory. Dr. Basavaraju urged the youth to utilize platforms like Y4G to enhance their knowledge, skills, and abilities to become leaders of nation-building. Ms. Jyothi appreciated the youth participation, and Mr. Raghavendra, who judged the youth poster presentation, was appreciative of the participation and ideas presented by the youth. He emphasized that as the youth of the nation, active participation in events like this is crucial for building successful careers.
The program had begun with an Inaugural Ceremony that featured a Yoga Dance performance by students from the Yogic Sciences Department at the University of Mysore. The inaugural panel included esteemed guests, and the event was chaired by Dr. Basavaraju.R Shreshta, Executive Director GRAAM.
This event was initiated by the Grassroots Research and Advocacy Movement (GRAAM) in partnership with Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) and the Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF) as part of the Youth for Governance fellowship in Mysuru. The fellowship aims to increase youth participation in governance and encourage youth to be agents of change. The International Youth Day Celebration on August 21, 2023, was organized in association with the Department of Social Work, Manasagangotri, University of Mysuru, at Vijnana Bhavan, University of Mysuru campus.
For more information about the Youth for Governance Fellowship and the program, please contact Mr. Bhagavan Bidarakote from GRAAM at +91 9620207879 or firstname.lastname@example.org. GRAAM is also conducting a 3-day Public Policy Certification course from September 1-3, 2023, aimed at educating youth in the policy and governance space. Program details and registration information are available on GRAAM's website, www.graam.org.in.