Is the magic of youth failing in politics?

Updated: Mar 29, 2013, 16:43 PM IST

Rahul Gandhi, Akhilesh Yadav, Sukhbir Singh Badal and Omar Abdullah have one common streak – they are all young leaders and the future face of their parties. With majority of the population in India being below the age of 40, they are expected to connect easily with the young voters and make it count when it matters the most. However if one were to dissect the performances of these ‘young’ politicians in recent times, the picture does not seem very rosy.

Let us start with situation as they exist in Uttar Pradesh. A year back when Mulayam Singh Yadav’s son, Akhilesh Yadav lead the Samajwadi Party back to power in Uttar Pradesh on the plank of good governance and better law and order situation in the state, many hailed his win as a victory of the youth power. He was seen as a beacon of hope by the people of his state. However, one year down the line the hope has begun to fade and UP under SP rule seems to be what it was in its last term. On his part Akhilesh looks like a man who has no clue as to what is happening in his state. A case in point is the recent killing of the Deputy Superintendent of Police of Pratapgarh district allegedly by a former minister in Akhilesh’s cabinet, Rahguraj Pratap Singh (Raja Bhaiya).

Zia-ul-Haq was shot dead mercilessly when he went to control the situation following the killing of a village head. The incident once again exposed the poor law and order situation in UP ever since Akhilesh Yadav has came to power. Infact many question his prudence in giving a cabinet berth to the don-turned-politician Raja Bhaiya. Needless to say, DSP’s killing was a major dent in the image of the Akhilesh’s government with cynics saying that the Samajwadi Party can never shed the tag of being a ‘goonda’ party.

This is not an isolated incident. One look at the statistics and the picture becomes crystal clear. Government statistics show that during April–November 2011, around 3,161 murders, 1,164 rapes and 1,831 loot cases took place in UP. And even after a string of directives to the police administration to keep a vigilant eye on the law and order situation in the state, nothing seems to be working. Many political rivals and pundits had predicted that nothing will change in Uttar Pradesh during Akhilesh`s reign. They had said that Samajwadi Party workers will keep Akhilesh busy enough with their own law and order antics and ‘goondaism’. Their words seem prophetic now. If Akhilesh does not pull up his socks, then he will have to bear the consequences in the upcoming General Elections.

The story of Punjab under the son of Akali Dal (Badal) supremo and Chief Minister of Punjab, Parkash Singh Badal is no different. In the last Assembly elections, Sukhbir Singh Badal vowed to bring change in the state and work for the people. Though he is the Deputy Chief Minister, many believe that he is running the entire show because of senior Badal`s frail health. He had even earned the sobriquet of being a go-getter. But the show is not going on as well as the voters of Punjab had expected.

Some of the recent incidences in the state reveal the extent to which the police and the administration in the state have become apathetic towards the common man and also exposes the unwillingness of the ruling party to take timely actions.
The public thrashing of a woman by the Punjab police in broad daylight, who had approached them to register a rape complaint along with her father and the case of Jaswinder Singh alias Khattu, the son of SGPC member Ranjeet Singh who was arrested on the charges of involvement in the killing of lawyer Amarpreet Singh, who had objected to a group of youngsters parking their vehicles outside his house, are glaring examples of the failure of Sukhbir’s government.

Another case which highlighted the incompetence of the SAD government was the killing of an ASI of Punjab Police who was allegedly shot dead by Ranjit Singh Rana, now expelled SAD general secretary. Rana allegedly shot the ASI dead, just because he had asked him to stop stalking his daughter. In another incident, a Punjab Police officer was allegedly beaten up by a leader of Shiromani Akali Dal`s youth front in a brawl at a local hotel where the cop had gone to attend a Christmas-eve party with three of his friends and their families.

The list is long and disturbing. The government simply seems to be losing hold over the administration. It seems that the ‘young’ Badal, who holds the home portfolio, is yet to grasp the gravity of the situation or he probably lacks the competence and experience to control the situation.

The story of the scion of the Jammu and Kashmir’s most powerful political family- the Abdullah family – also seems almost the same. The people of the state gave the mandate to 38-year-old Omar Abdullah with the hope that he would be able to control insurgency and violence in the Kashmir Valley. Yes, the road ahead of him was thorny, but many believed in Omar’s energy and eagerness.
However, when Omar recently broke down in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly, it was not only a symbol of remorse for the youth killed in Baramullah, but a sign of despair. The Opposition dubbed it as his fine acting skills but the media saw it as a sign of a man who had lost control.

Omar’s tenure has been marred by a host of problems - Shopian rape and murder, sex scandals, missing Sagheer report, failed hydro projects, dismal power scenario and a multi-crore cricket association scam. Omar surely doesn’t need more with impending state Assembly elections in 2014. Omar’s case could be termed as being politically juvenile – a man who does not know where his state is heading. He has been talking about the revoking of AFPSA and the hanging of Afzal Guru to reconnect with the voters but it does not seem to be working for him at the moment. To be noted is the fact that the ‘young’ CM’s hair has gone quite a bit grey during his five-year term and he is looking much older than his age.

The story of young leaders in Indian politics will not be complete without mentioning Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the Gandhi family and the recently appointed vice president of the Congress party. It is no secret that Rahul is seen to be a reluctant politician, someone who was pushed and cajoled into accepting a bigger role in the party. Rahul’s track record in some of the recent state elections is also not something to talk about. Also his aversion to take up any ministerial post only asserts his reluctance to accept responsibility. While it is too early to write off Rahul as a failure, it must be said that the ‘young’ Gandhi has much to do to prove himself as a leader who can be given the responsibility to run the country.

So while it is common for people to pin their hopes on new and fresh faces, going by the recent track record, they must be in two minds whether to invest in the young guns or persist with the experienced and the old ones.