Youth Should Be Actively Connected With Politics, Decision Making

This issue is not very loud, but comes to the surface from time to time regarding reduce of the age limit for contesting parliamentary elections has been going on in political circles for a long time.

This issue is again in discussion before the upcoming general elections. This debate has again gained momentum with the suggestion of Parliament Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice.

This committee led by Sushil Kumar Modi has talked about reducing the minimum age limit for contesting elections from 25 years to 18 years. 

Earlier in December, 2022, Jayanta Chaudhary had introduced a private member’s bill on this subject in Parliament. 

However, the Election Commission has not agreed to this proposal of reducing the age limit. 

Those advocating to reduce the age limit for contesting elections argue that this will increase youth participation in politics and since India is a country with a young population, it is necessary to increase the representation of youth.

There are many democratic countries in the world where one can contest elections at the age of 18 years. 

Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Switzerland and Australia are some of the major countries where one becomes eligible to contest elections as soon as one crosses the age of 18 years. 

At the same time, in some states of America, Brazil and Indonesia, the age limit of 21 years is acceptable as the minimum age group for contesting elections.

In contrast, in India it is 25 years. While India has been among those countries, where the tradition of universal adult franchise was adopted from the beginning without any discrimination between men and women. Then the minimum age limit for franchise was reduced from 21 to 18 years in 1989. 

Also, 18 years of age is considered standard for many other tasks like driving. That’s why voice is raised to reduce the age limit for contesting elections. 

In such a situation, it is necessary to investigate whether it will really benefit or is the existing system better?

There is no doubt that connecting the youth with politics would be beneficial from any point of view. With this, their aspirations can be easily expressed in policy making. 

To understand youth participation in Indian politics and elections, it would be useful to look at some trends. 

In the year 2014, around 9,500 and in 2019, 10,000 candidates contested the Lok Sabha elections. 

Of these, only five per cent candidates were in the age group of 25 to 30 years. 

In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, there were only 32 candidates in the age group of 25 to 30 years who got more than five per cent votes. Whereas in 2019, there were 26 candidates who got more than five percent votes.

If we talk about victory, only 11 MPs in 2014 and 8 in 2019 won, whose age was between 25 to 30 years. 

If the implications of these figures are drawn, then the only thing that comes to light is that not many candidates in the age group of 25 to 30 years are contesting the elections and even if they are contesting, they are not able to win. 

Most of those who are contesting and winning the elections come from political families.

If we look at the picture of the last few Lok Sabha elections, the average age of the Parliament would be between 53 to 54 years. 

This clearly indicates that the representation of youth population should increase in the legislative body like Parliament. 

After all, what is the reason that this is not happening? Prima facie, political parties appear to be the biggest culprits. 

Political parties refrain from giving tickets to the youth. Even if tickets are given, it is mainly to those who have political family background or influence. 

In such a situation, if the minimum age limit for contesting elections is reduced, then there will be a big risk that it will further increase the dominance of dynastic politics on our political system. 

Naturally, the way to connect youth with politics does not go through reducing the minimum age limit for contesting elections, but for this, political parties will have to comprehensively change their thinking and attitude(

If political parties are really serious about increasing youth participation in politics, then they will have to take steps at many levels. First of all, the government will have to change the criteria regarding the youth. Now even those in the age group of 34-35 years are considered young. This scale has to be reduced. Parties will have to give more space to the youth in their organizational structure. It is generally seen that the leadership of the youth units of big political parties is also in the hands of the leaders standing on the threshold of maturity. Political parties will also have to fix a maximum age limit for their student organizations. It would be better not to give space to those above 30 years of age.

Along with political parties, civil society will also have to take measures to increase youth participation in voting. Voting trends show that people in the age group of 18 to 25 years show disinterest in it. One of the main reasons for this is that the youth of this age group are out of the place where their name is in the voter list, either for studies or for work. They are not able to go to their native places just to vote. The disillusionment of youth with politics starts from here.

Therefore, the political parties and the Election Commission have to find a way that the youth living outside their native places due to various reasons can cast their vote without any hindrance. 

When youth will participate in voting, their attitude towards politics will also become serious and sensitive. 

A natural feeling of leadership will also develop within them. 

First effective measures should be taken in this direction, only then move forward to consider reducing the minimum age for contesting elections

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