Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Young contenders lock horns in poll arena
Politics is no longer the domain of the archetypal, dyed-in-the-wool ‘neta.’ It has evolved and attracting young professionals, doctors, engineers even journalists, who are determined to make a difference even if it requires chucking their well-heeled career or job. And like a breath of fresh air, their entry into the poll arena has added some colour, verve and festivity to an otherwise lacklustre 2019 Lok Sabha elections so far.
Politics, say the elders in the profession, is no child’s play. No wonder, the average Indian lawmaker is 65 – in a country where more than 50% of its population constitutes youths in the age group of 25-30 years. Each new Lok Sabha, according to a report by the PRS Legislative Research, is getting older every election since independence. Only 2.2% (or around 10 out of the total 543) in the existing 16th Lok Sabha MPs are below the age of 30. Though transformations do not happen overnight, the enthusiasm and predilection of the new breed of entrants taking part in the battle for ballots augur well for a profession where leaders are born overnight and veterans dealt sudden death.
Gradually but surely the old order seems to be yielding place to the new at least in the country’s most populated state – Uttar Pradesh. The move was also reflected in BJP’s decision not to field anyone above 75 years in this election despite the angry howl of protest both within and outside the party ranks.
“We witnessed a generational shift in 2012 when Mulayam Singh Yadav decided to hand over the baton to his son Akhilesh Yadav and made him the chief minister despite resistance from rank and file in the party,” says Professor Yashbir Tyagi. Still a numero uno in the party, BSP supremo Mayawati too has started introducing her brother Anand and nephew Akash Anand, to party workers as two leaders who may play a significant role in the party in future. She introduced her nephew to SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav at the historic rally in Mainpuri recently where the two political arch rivals shared the platform for the first time burying the hatchet after 25 years.
The trend seems to be catching on. Critics, however, warn that this development where more and more siblings and members of political families are taking the plunge is nothing but the perpetuation of dynastic politics. “I don’t see anything wrong in nurturing a younger set of leaders. If a film star’s son can become an actor, why not that of a politician. Perhaps they were lucky in that they were able to cut their teeth early in politics,” says Athar Hussein of the Centre for Objective Research and Development.
“If politics has become a career option then like all other vocations, it needs skilled and qualified professionals at the helm who can deliver good governance. The competition has to be stiff and only the best should be chosen to lead only then we will see things improve,” says Iqtedar Farooqui, a retired scientist.
THE YOUNG CONTENDERS
Purvi Verma, Samajwadi Party (Kheri)
A doctor with an MBBS degree to boast from Ghaziabad, this 29-year-old resident of Gola Gokaranath symbolizes Samajwadi Party’s commitment to women empowerment. One reason why the party president Akhilesh Yadav announced her debut along with that of his better half Dimple Yadav from Kannauj and Usha Verma from Hardoi on International Women’s Day on March 8.
Sangh Mitra Maurya, BJP (Badaun)
One doughty lady, this 34-year-old daughter of senior BJP minister Swami Prasad Maurya, has thrown her hat into the ring from a seat, which has been a Yadav bastion. But politics runs in her blood and that perhaps explains why this qualified doctor, 2010 MBBS graduate chucked her medical profession and decided to step into his father’s shoes. Pitted against a formidable opponent like Samajwadi Party’s Dharmendra Yadav, Mitra has taken the plunge into the rough and tumble of politics and packs her own punch. Those who think she is a woman in a man’s world better watch out because apart from diamond and gold jewellery, she also owns a revolver, a rifle and one DBBL gun.
Dolly Sharma, Congress (Ghaziabad)
Strategy, apparently, is as important as management in elections. And who should know this better than Congress’s Dolly Sharma (34) locked in a battle of the ballot with BJP’s veteran army general (retired) VK Singh. An MBA from IMS Noida, the feisty lady was chosen by the Congress ignoring the claims of several party leaders from the region. She intends to live up to her party’s expectations. But who triumphs in this management versus strategy war would only be known when the votes are counted on May 23.
Supriya Shrinate, Congress (Maharajganj)
Talking about veterans, Congress seems to be relying on yet another seasoned journalist to pull the party through in a crucial eastern Uttar Pradesh seat. But Supriya is no stranger to the electorate in Maharajganj Lok Sabha. “I will be taking an active plunge in politics, am grateful to Congress. It will be an honour to keep my late father’s legacy alive,” tweeted the daughter of late Harsh Vardhan Singh soon after her candidature was announced.
Tanuj Punia, Congress (Barabanki)
The sir name we are not hearing for the first time. This 34-year-old IIT Roorkee graduate has cut his teeth early in politics. He made his foray from Zaidpur assembly seat in Barabanki in 2017 but lost to BJP’s Upendra Rawat. Father PL Punia is a well-known name in the Congress and has represented Barabanki Lok Sabha seat in 2012 but lost in 2014 when ‘Modi wave’ swept the state. The son is out to take revenge this time fighting on a Congress ticket to regain the seat once represented by his father.
Akshay Yadav, SP (Firozabad)
At 32, when many are still struggling to make their mark, this chip off the old block has made as much money as his age – Rs 32 crore – a reflection, perhaps, of his BBA degree from Amity University, Noida. Akshay won the seat in 2014 even during the ‘Modi wave’ in 2014. It pays to have a father, Ram Gopal Yadav, who is a veteran politician.
Dinesh Lal aka ‘Nirahua’, BJP (Azamgarh)
This 30 something superstar of Bhojpuri film industry has brought some colour to a contest in a Samajwadi Party stronghold. We are not cheering for him politically though as his celebrity status is unlikely to translate into votes.
Jayant Chaudhary, RLD (Baghpat)
With a degree in MSc accounting and finance from the prestigious London School of Economic, this grandson of former Prime Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh and son of former union minister Ajit Singh, regarded as the first family of the farmers in Western UP made his debut from Mant in Mathura in 2012 when he was just 32. A true son-of-the-soil, Jayant made his mark in the Parliament by mooting the new land acquisition law. He lost to actress Hema Mali in Mathura in 2014.
Kamlesh Kumar Katheria, SP (Etawah)
The Samajwadi Party is banking on this 34-year-old graduate to win back the seat it lost to the BJP in 2014. The SP has won three elections out of the four in the last two decades from the Etawah Lok Sabha seat considered its bastion.
Ritesh Pandey, BSP (Ambedkar Nagar)
A former MLA from Jalalpur, 35-year-old Ritesh Pandey was in the news last year because of his brother, Ashish Pandey, who was held for brandishing a gun outside a five-star hotel in Delhi. Pandey owns liquor business, sugar and rice mills, real estate business, among others.