Youth wings of political parties must reflect a young India | editorials

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has realised the importance young leadership and is reorganising its youth wing to reflect this. According to a report in Hindustan Times, the BJP has decided to drop 40-plus leaders from its youth wing, Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, and as a part of this exercise its units in Maharashtra have been dissolved, with plans for a similar action in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.

The BJP is right—politicians in their forties cannot be considered ‘young’. If a party wants to attract the young and reflect their aspirations it must have a young lot of leaders in its youth wing. Politics must reflect the social milieu — but, regrettably, that’s not the case now in India. How can a young and vibrant nation, with a median age in the mid-twenties, have so few leaders in this age group?

Traditionally leadership positions in the youth wings of political parties have been treated as berths reserved for leaders waiting for a call to the main party. Age limits have seldom been factored into such scenarios. Take the example of the DMK in Tamil Nadu. Until January, the DMK youth wing was headed by a 63-year-old MK Stalin, who gave way when he was chosen as the party’s working president, for more than three decades. Mr Stalin’s successor is former state highway minister MP Saminathan who in May turned 53. Surely the DMK’s youth wing leadership does not reflect the demographic profile of Tamil Nadu, which has a median age of around 27.

Internationally we see more young politicians coming to the forefront. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron are the best examples of this trend. We have had similar examples in India as well. Rajiv Gandhi became PM when he was 40. Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath is 45 years old. His predecessor, Akhilesh Yadav took office when he was 39.

It is hoped that all parties will — ideally they should — realise the importance of giving youth a voice in its rank and file. This will bring in fresh thinking and ideas, something our politics sorely needs.