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Young guns lead the charge, set new trend

Young candidates form the majority in the ongoing UP elections, this is a new trend in the state’s politics.

india Updated: May 03, 2007 05:45 IST

In a state that has produced some of India’s top grandfatherly politicians, young candidates form the majority in the ongoing elections, in a new trend in the state’s politics.

Of the 6,000-plus candidates running for office, more than 3,560 are under 44 years, according to Election Commission records. They include 1,313 men and 83 women between the ages of 25 and 34. The there are 164 women and 2,008 men between the ages of 35 and 44.

At Allahabad University, one of the crucibles of the state’s turbulent student politics, many undergraduates say they have an eye on political careers. “I am with the Samajwadi Party. Along with studies, I think we need to be associated with a political party. We can have our own identity,” says Syed Mohammad Zeeshan, 18.

Some of the state’s top leaders have been student leaders from Allahabad University. But most students here have little access to the big-ticket dreams their counterparts in other states are chasing. That seems to have encouraged mainline parties to enter the state’s universities through their student wings. Thousands of students have been enrolled as members, intended as campaign strategy for assembly and Parliament elections.

“This is not politics. This is hidden criminality,” says Ram Prakash Singh, vice-chancellor of Lucknow University. Singh’s crackdown on criminal students has won him national acclaim. He has cleaned up the terror-driven hostels and expelled more than 230 students, most of them belonging to the ruling SP.

“When the Samajwadi Party was not in power, there were hardly any students allied with it. But when it formed government, these people joined it because they wanted to take control of the college, and get protection from the police,” Singh said in a telephone interview.

“I think campuses in UP have become what the state itself has become — chaotic,” says Nishi Pandey, dean of students’ welfare at Lucknow University.

In this chaos, Devendra Dwivedi, 18, finds himself in a dilemma. This political science student likes to study politics but has stayed away from it, just like his idealist uncle, a Congressman who twice became village headman but is now disillusioned with politics. “Politics is not the same anymore. The mafia has raided it. My uncle never gained from politics — he did not even get an electricity connection — and he treats politics as a philosophy. There is no place in it for such people,” Dwivedi says. “Sometimes I want to get into politics. But it seems I won’t get a ticket until I commit a few murders,” he adds.