Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah put things in black and white, so to speak, when he spoke of how his salt and pepper hair could be an advantage in the world of Indian politics where age is still a prized commodity. At the just-concluded Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, however, there was remarkable candour in which two young CMs Omar Abdullah and Akhilesh Yadav and one deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal from three of India's crucial states spoke of the challenges they faced.
For a start, they were clear that coming as they do from political families may have given them a foot in through the door but that politics was a great leveler for those who did not perform. One of the tricky issues that was taken up was that of whether the growth of regional parties was creating instability in politics. The CMs raised the point that it had to be accepted that coalition politics had come to stay and states sometimes needed to be vociferous about their demands. They faced tough questions about their track record, especially the point that given their age, they were not taken seriously by the party elders. However, they suggested that while taking cognisance of the age and experience of their seniors, they were trying to usher in progressive measures.
The focus of the panel discussion was not on old-fashioned politics but on progress and development and a willingness to sort out sticky Centre-state problems. This is a positive step. A sure sign that while the young leaders are still hampered by many old problems, they are trying to think out of the box and getting a creaky political machinery moving in the right direction.