B S Raghavan

New Year vows for young politicians

B.S.RAGHAVAN | Updated on December 31, 2012

The young should assert themselves collectively to reform the political system. — PTI

Young politicians should resist the entry of criminals into politics.

As an incorrigible optimist, I have invariably been projecting an upbeat picture of India in my New Year’s Day articles of the past four years. Even I am approaching my task this year in a mood of concern. Not certainly alarm, not exactly despondency, not even worry, but undoubtedly concern, to the extent of being reluctant even to be cautiously optimistic.

The first cause of my concern is the signs and signals that I see emanating from those who have the reins of power and authority in their hands. They have made stonewalling of every move to cleanse politics, improve governance and instil accountability into a fine art. If it comes from the Opposition, the excuse for rejection is that it is politically motivated and opposition for the sake of opposition; if it comes from well-wishers abroad, they are having ulterior motives; and if it is well-wishers within, well, except when the elections come near, no citizen counts in the eyes of the powers-that-be. Supercilious, self-aggrandising and intolerant of dissent, they think nothing of using the might of the state to crush legitimate criticism and misuse their authority to fatten themselves and their families and cronies.

POLLUTED CURRENT

Once I took it to be a happy augury that a good number of persons of the younger generation were entering politics and being elected to Parliament and State Assemblies. Many of them are also being made Ministers. I had great expectation about their ability to bring about a sea-change in the stinking political culture with their youthful idealism and dynamism, zeal for getting things done and zest for a better India. More than that, I even thought that, with their sensitivity to right and wrong, the younger set would take its bit in its teeth and prevail upon the oldsters either to give up their crooked ways that are bringing bad name to India or quit in favour of persons of integrity and competence.

Alas, the young group of politicians in the legislatures seems to have opted to swim with the polluted current and pander to the seedy elders, rather than bravely stand up and be counted as unequivocal champions of clean politics and good governance. This is very strange because almost all of them are bright, smart and well-educated, widely travelled and savvy about what is happening in the world and what needs to be done to make India world class. It is equally strange that they should be so very slow in grasping the simple truth that the longer the present state of affairs marked by get-rich-quick-by-any-means mentality and utter lack of scruples continues, the more difficult will it become to reverse it.

Only the younger achievers among professionals, whether they are in politics or any other sphere of activity, can set the goals of the youth as a whole for them to be acceptable and credible. For, there is a general tendency among the youth to view the old timers as antediluvian, preachy and boring, and not ‘with it’. Hence, leaders of the young should also necessarily be in their prime themselves.

GINGER GROUP

The best means for young politicians to make an impact on the political landscape is for them to organise themselves into a ginger group and make their voice heard. This is not as outlandish as it sounds. The young members of the Congress party, of the likes of Chandra Shekhar, Mohan Dharia, Krishan Kant, and Ram Dhan, banded themselves under the banner of Young Turks during Indira Gandhi’s time and even courted imprisonment during Emergency for being intrepid in expressing their opinion on what was good for the party and the country. Feroze Gandhi, the son-in-law of Jawaharlal Nehru himself, used to be a part of the 'ginger group' during the undivided Congress days.

It is with these considerations in mind that I place before the young politicians just three New Year resolutions which, if only they set their hearts to it, can be the beginning of a new era.

Participate fearlessly at internal meetings of parties and in representative bodies. For instance, various political parties nowadays organise chintan baithaks. The Congress President, Sonia Gandhi, has planned one at Jaipur in the third week of January. They should not be allowed to be hijacked by entrenched gerontocrats whose thinking is clouded and has fallen into a rut. The younger group should make its presence felt at such meetings.

De-criminalise representative bodies. This acquires topmost priority and utmost importance for the obvious reason that the quality of representative bodies in a democracy is the fount of everything else that is worthwhile in national life and if that is defiled, the nation is bound to go down the drain. Law breakers, some of them charged with heinous crimes such as rape, murder and the like, pontificating self-righteously in Parliament and State Assemblies in debates on various legislative measures day after day would indeed be comic, were it not so very sickening to the sight and injurious to the body politic.

At the minimum, what this canker calls for is insistence by young politicians on action on two fronts: First, they should stop Tammany Hall type leaders of political parties from nominating as candidates persons who have criminal cases pending against them. Second, they should have a law passed for barring persons against whom Courts have framed criminal charges from standing as candidates for election or continuing as members of legislatures and Cabinets.

The fundamental pre-requisite is for them to be spotless themselves in discharging their responsibilities.

See to the implementation of reforms in administration, police, judiciary, and conduct of elections. Any number of recommendations of measures needed to effect improvement in all these areas are already available but have been stalled because vested interests are determined to stall them. If the young set of politicians are true to their salt, they should spearhead the demand for implementation of those recommendations without further delay.

In sum, the hope for the golden future of the country lies with youth. Young politicians have the chance to make it into a reality. All that they need to do is to tell themselves “Yes, We can”!

Published on December 31, 2012

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