It was painful yet poignant to see Mr. Jaswant Singh of the BJP burst into tears and fight back against the party that he has served for the better part of his political innings. On the one hand, it was clear that the new leadership of the BJP under Mr. Modi was “cleaning house,” slowly phasing out people they didn’t care for. It’s a sign that the new team lead by Modi is not averse to playing tough and decisive when required.
With age not on his side, 77 year old Mr. Jaswant Singh could perhaps have chosen to take a back seat and have a younger candidate take his position. But alas, Indian politics does not work that way! The old never retire until they are pushed out or die. The young never get a chance until they are too old and filled with scars from accumulated baggage that renders them ineffective for the most part. Perhaps the most telling aspect of the Jaswant Singh saga was the manner in which the BJP gave the Barmar ticket to recent BJP convert from the Congress. It simply reeks of sheer desperation of a party going all out to cobble together the magic number of 272 seats.
What the BJP is witnessing today is an intense power struggle of leaders in their 60s, led by Modi, outmaneuvering the veterans led by Advani who are well into their 70s and 80s. Meanwhile, the BJP is going all out to co-opt coalition partners. The politics of “thod-phod” is in full display all across the country. Old foe Ram Vilas Paswan is now on board the BJP train. The feuding Shiv Sena factions are on board too. Vijayakanth of the MDMK is in. Even Karunanidhi is being actively courted in case Jayalalitha has plans of her own. If rumors are to be believed, Anna was on a special mission to co-opt Mamta so he could play king-maker post-election. The otherwise well respected Jay Prakash Narayan of the Lok Satta seems to have thrown in the towel too and “compromised” to join the BJP gravy train.
If you observe the BJP’s poll strategy, it is doing exactly what the Congress has been doing all along. Ensure victory in a few states and then get whoever comes along to make up the numbers - ideology, policies, views, track record - nothing matters. Between the Gandhi family and its sycophants on the one hand and the BJP and its feuding power hungry veterans on the other, the country has squandered 67+ precious years to make its mark in the world. At this stage, replacing a corrupt and failed Congress with a BJP that seems ready to “sell its soul” to gain power hardly seems like “change.”
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
India’s 10 crore young, new voters have the power in their hands to change the course of history. It is their futures that are at stake. Our young people need to find jobs and find them soon. Mr. Ramadoorai, Chairman of the National Skill Development agency, recently pointed out in an article that India’s working-age population will rise by 12.5 crores over the coming decade, and by a further 10.3 crores over the following decade. He says we don’t have the jobs and if even we did, we don’t have the skilled workforce to fill those jobs.
If you are young man or woman in this country, you have every reason to be worried. But you have a choice. You can sit back and remain a spectator in this election while our current political class mortgages your future. Alternately, you can join the political process and ensure that a new class of politics emerges, driven by leadership that is younger, visionary and more in tune with the pulse of the youth.
First and foremost, begin by asking the tough questions. Would you want your leaders to be afraid to talk to the the media? Do you expect your leaders to give you straight answers, especially to critical issues? Have you spent the time to understand the issues that are at stake in this election? Are you going blindly by what the media says or are you doing your own research? Do you debate, discuss, argue with your friends and come to your own conclusions? Are you mobilizing your network of friends and family and getting them involved in the political process?
When Bill Clinton first became President of the US while still in his early forties, he said he wants a cabinet that looked like America and he went on to appoint a very diverse team of individuals. Likewise, it’s time our Indian parliament reflects our population and its demographic trends. Since the early 90s, the US has chosen relatively younger Presidents to run their country and it has served them well for the most part.
India desperately needs a generational shift in its leadership sooner and faster than any country in the world. Only the youth of India can make this happen.