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HindustanTimes Thu,17 Apr 2014

IIM, IIT ditch MNCs, do summer internships with political parties

Vanita Srivastava, Brajesh Kumar and Prashant Jha , Hindustan Times  New Delhi, February 22, 2014
First Published: 21:12 IST(22/2/2014) | Last Updated: 23:55 IST(22/2/2014)

If you are a young student interested in politics, keen to gain first-hand experience of elections, and add a stint in a party on your CV, Campaign 2014 offers exciting opportunities.

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Even as big national parties remain relatively closed in their operations, smaller regional outfits have opened their doors for political interns – a concept popular in western democracies, but relatively unknown in India so far.

Samprato Motghare, an IIT Delhi graduate, is now in his final year of management at Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata. He is among the 31 students from the institute who have applied for a six-week internship with Trinamool Congress.

"While a business company sells products, a political party sells ideas to the voters. In a business company the environment is much more stable in contrast to a political party where the climate is more volatile," he told HT.

Derek O' Brien, TMC spokesperson, said the party would select two candidates from the final year. "Besides being a part of the Lok Sabha elections, the interns would learn new lessons on managerial skills."

The Trinamool had taken two interns from IIM before the 2011 state assembly polls as well. One of them, Hariharan Sriram, said, "My time with TMC convinced me that a political party is like any corporate entity, only more intense."

"There was the rigour of timelines and deadlines and the fact that every move of the party and its leadership is being closely scrutinised by millions creates immense pressure on them," Sriram said.

Kavish, a 22 year-old student at IIT Mumbai, was following the Anna movement but felt it would be ineffective unless it turned political.

 "Once Aam Aadmi Party was formed, I thought I should be a part of it. I applied for a summer internship and came to Delhi before the assembly polls."

Kavish was allotted a constituency where he had to bridge the gap between the "educated and illiterate", profile constituency and be engaged in door-to-door campaigns. He also tied up with another intern to set up a web-platform for grievance redressal.

"The stint will help in my career. Companies give a lot of weightage to this kind of experience," he said.

Asked whether a stint with a political party would adversely affect their prospects since they may be seen as aligned to one outfit, a management school applicant said, "No it is a professional assignment like any other. It has nothing to do with one's beliefs."

But others, particularly AAP supporters, said the internship emerged from their political convictions, but this did not mean their professional independence was compromised.

Bigger political parties seem less open.

BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told HT that the party has not formally recruited any interns. "But if someone comes voluntarily and wants to help the party in any way, and offer suggestions, they are always welcome."

A BJP leader, wishing anonymity said, the party PM-candidate Narendra Modi has a parallel team of strategists, many of whom are outside the party structure.

A Congress party source said that the party does not have any interns working in the election war-room, operating out of central Delhi. Vice-president Rahul Gandhi's close advisor Mohan Gopal has a team of fresh graduates assisting him with research, but they are outside the party fold.

"Some leaders have new additions in their teams, but these are mostly people out of foreign universities," said the source.

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