The charge of the youth brigade
Meet the Generation X political activists of the State and find out what they have to say about their calling...
THEY COME from different ends of the political spectrum, make the right noises about politics being a kind of social service, unanimously believe that the old war-horses should give way to them and patiently await the day when power will be rightfully theirs. Some are the scions of political families, while others do not let the lack of godfathers in political circles deter them from ploughing on. All of them believe that they can make a difference to a country where more than 50 per cent of the electorate comprises the young. For these are the Generation X political activists who are eager to see India truly shining.
They have made their debut in the political circles but what is their claim to fame? The answer lies in almost a decade of political experience at the grassroots by the time they are in their mid or late 20s. Says 26-year-old Anoop Jacob, son of the Minister for Water Resources, T. M. Jacob, "I started taking an active interest in politics during my Pre-Degree days." Later, during his graduation and study of Law, his involvement increased. He became the State president of the Kerala Students Congress in 2001. He has recently been elected the president of the Youth Front of the Kerala Congress(Jacob).
Another youngster who has been in the thick of things since her Pre-Degree at Mar Ivanios College is Achu Chandy, daughter of the UDF convener, Oommen Chandy. "I grew up in the politically-charged atmosphere at home. I always knew I wanted to enter the students' wing of the party." Achu joined the Kerala Students Union and stood for college elections in the first year of Pre-Degree.
These youngsters are now busy campaigning for their parent parties across the State. Does having politically influential parents give them an edge over others? "Yes," says Anoop "One does get more preference initially, but I have tried to make it on my own. I did not reach this position all of a sudden. All these years, I have taken active part in politics. I deserve what I have achieved."
Not everyone has a godfather in politics though. A. Vinod, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) State president, says he was an SFI activist in college but his inclination did not lie towards political change. "In college, some of us even formed two organisations that campaigned against political activities on campuses. I got in touch with the ABVP in this connection and later, joined the organisation." The KSU State president, P. C. Vishnunath, and the SFI State committee secretary, T. Rajesh, also made it on their own steam.
Young they may be but they sound like seasoned politicians. "I joined politics because I wished to give something back to society," says Bineesh Kodiyeri, younger son of Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, Deputy Leader of the CPI(M) Legislature Party.
Vinod says that student activism is above party and politics. "What interests me is social change and not political change. The ABVP does not have any political aspirations; it works in the area of education."
"We have always worked for the student community and in areas such as education, health and social welfare," says Rajesh.
For all their talk, how many of them are ready to commit themselves to politics full-time? Says Anoop, "I practised Law at the Trivandrum Bar for almost a year-and-a-half. But my responsibilities as the president of the Youth Front took up much of my time, and I have become increasingly involved with it."
He says politics cannot be called a profession because "I cannot think of politics as a source of income" but he is sure it is his life and it is what he wants to do.
Achu, who works with Reliance Webworld, says she decided to work because she could not go on depending on her parents for ever. "Financial independence is very important. One must earn one's own bread. Moreover, one needs money to enter politics. It is not possible to go around asking people to lend money. Also, take the case of politicians in other countries. Most of them have an alternative career. They do not have to depend on anyone for money. I am trying to set an example for similar people here."
Bineesh, a third-year law student, says he would keep his options open. "It is too early to say whether I will continue in politics or will move to greener pastures."
Unlike Bineesh, Vishnunath and Rajesh are clear about where their priorities lie. It is working for the party and nothing else for us, they say.
What do these up and coming political activists have to say about the youth and how they relate to politics? Vinod says that the youth today are very aware of the political, social and economic scenario. "There is a considerable change in the way youngsters think. Earlier, for the sake of social service, they would have discontinued education and jumped on to the social or political bandwagon. The youth of today are smarter. They would rather complete their education and find ways of self-employment," he explains.
Achu says that the youth are tired of the system and feel that politicians are not to be trusted. "People earlier knew what values the party stood for. Now, people with muscle power dominate the party politics. Politics is losing face. In such a scenario, the youth are not drawn towards politics."
Vishnunath agrees. "Today, politics attracts only half the number of youth that it used to earlier. Most youngsters are interested in landing a job and do not display much social commitment."
Anoop is, however, optimistic. "While the number of student activists may have come down, the youth is more aware of the political scenario, the right to vote and the importance of electing the right person. The youth may be staying away from politics but they are more interested in the political process than ever before."
These young activists voice their disenchantment with the current trends in campus politics. "Earlier, the students used to rave about those who could debate and write well. This is no longer the case today. Only those who sing, dance and have a fan following are considered to be heroes in our colleges," says Rajesh.
Achu does not seem to mind that political activity has been banned by the management of certain colleges. "It is probably better this way. Students were being manipulated by politicians for their own ends. Campus politics was spiralling out of control. Moreover, students these days have interests other than politics."
Bineesh, however, points out that most veteran politicians made their foray into the field during their student days. "Students should have the freedom to exercise their opinion, especially in matters that concern them," he says.
Vinod avers that students these days cannot be taken for a ride. Vishnunath agrees with him. "The students question every political move on the campus. They are media-savvy too and convincing them is not as easy as it used to be."
The occasional hiccup apart, these young activists are happy doing their bit for the society. All have election-related campaigning lined up for the weeks ahead. Street plays, meetings, squad works on campuses, brainstorming sessions, and debates are some of the strategies they have drawn up, right down to the last detail. The next few weeks will see them burning the midnight oil, trying to win the votes and hearts of Generation X.
R. K. ROSHNI
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