Youth set to storm parliament

PTI | ByIndo-Asian News Service, New Delhi
May 14, 2004 03:14 PM IST

From motor-mouth commentator Navjot Singh Sidhu to popular film actor Govinda, a host of actors and suave young leaders are set to add glitz and glamour to Indian politics.

When the new parliament assembles next week, it will be filled with more young and glamorous faces than ever before.

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One of the biggest trends of these polls has been the victories of young leaders and film stars who, almost in every case, swept away rivals and connected with voters in a wave of charisma.

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From motor-mouth cricket commentator Navjot Singh Sidhu to popular film actor Govinda, a host of actors and suave young leaders are set to add glitz and glamour to Indian politics.

Bollywood stars like Jaya Prada and Dharmendra have joined the ranks of actor-turned politicians Vinod Khanna and Sunil Dutt, strengthening the film brigade in parliament.

With them, a gaggle of new leaders turned giant killers beating veterans and perhaps reflecting the aspirations of a country where almost half the population is below 40.

From 33-year-old Rahul Gandhi, the fifth generation scion of the Gandhi-Nehru party, to Akhilesh Yadav, 31, the son of Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav - the clock has moved forward by almost a generation in these elections.

Pitching development, honest politics, new ideas and the freshness of youth, young leaders cutting across party barriers have won, many making their debut in parliament.

Their participation pushed several positives into the rough and tumble of Indian politics - development issues were granted more than the customary lip service, less mud slinging and some of the highest educated politicians ever.

Though contesting largely from family bastions, the young leaders showed uncanny ability to connect to voters and brought fresh insight into the issues of their constituencies.

The common accusation of promoting dynastic politics certainly didn't stop the young leaders from winning by large majorities, albeit mostly from family or party strongholds.

So while Gandhi made his political debut from Amethi - which has voted for Congress 10 times, five of which have been for a Gandhi, Omar Abdullah of Kashmir's National Conference got a fresh lease of political life.

The National Conference had been routed in the 2002 elections to the state assembly, with Abdullah himself losing in the Ganderbal assembly constituency.

This time he won from capital Srinagar.

The new politicians also soared the average education levels. Gandhi has an MPhil from Trinity College, Cambridge, his fellow party men, Sachin Pilot, son of late Congress leader Rajesh Pilot, has an MBA from Wharton, and Jyotiraditya Scindia, son of late Congress leader Madhavrao Scindia, went to Harvard and Stanford.

Yadav studied environmental engineering from the University of Sydney while Milind Deora, son of Maharashtra Congress leader Murli Deora, has a business administration degree from Boston University.

One break from the dynastic trend in young leaders has been the win of US-educated business magnet Navin Jindal, who won on the Congress ticket from Kurukshetra in Haryana.

A departure from the foreign educated tag is Sandeep Dikshit, the social worker son of Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and film star Govinda - both from the Congress.

In fact, the win of new leaders has been a major trend in these elections with almost every young politician who contested, winning by handsome margins.

"Young leaders carry with them the hopes of a young nation. India is a young nation, with a young electorate," said leading sociologist Peter D'Souza. "Remember, one of the first statements Rahul Gandhi made was for honesty in public life.

"That encapsulates the charm of these leaders. People believe in them."

But not every young and glamorous face won. In Kolkata, Delhi socialite Nafisa Ali and former actress Moushumi Chatterjee were drubbed.

Ali lost to Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Bannerjee but not before putting up a good fight.

In India's smallest constituency, Chandni Chowk, popular actress Irani Smruti Jabin lost to Congress spokesperson Kapil Sibal, in spite of the running one of the most widely covered campaigns in the country.

And in Assam, legendary singer Bhupen Hazarika was beaten.

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