The Young and the Restless: Youth and Politics in India

Book reading and Discussion with Gurmehar Kaur

The 2014 Lok Sabha election saw the involvement of India’s youth like never before. They were debating inside classrooms, sitting for dharnas on the street, having conversations in offices and on social media. The internet became the place for political outrage, humour, op-eds and blogs carried by youth-run pages and media houses. That was the election year that saw 150 million young voters and the highest number of first-time voters India had ever seen. As our country becomes old, the average age of the population keeps getting younger. In 2019, India will have the world’s largest youth population with 356 million people between the ages ten and twenty-four. But that is not the surprising and shocking revelation here. The surprise here is that while we will have the largest number of young people in a country, the average age of our parliamentarians is sixty-three. Our leaders are at least four decades older than the average twenty-five-year-old. To say that these leaders have completely ignored the country’s massive youth population will be a lie; they do know of them and they use their existence well enough by weaving them into their agendas around election time. The youth was promised jobs, lifestyle, technology and a thriving upward-moving economy, but those only remain unfulfilled promises. This book follows the journeys of twelve youth leaders, their aspirations for the youth population, their aspirations for themselves, and most importantly their aspirations for the nation. It explores whether their politics only mimics the politics of their older party leaders or if they have the ideas and passions and motivations of the demographic they represent. In the conversation we talk about all these issues and the themes I’m covering in the book along with the politician. As the elections are approaching in India it would also be interesting to discuss the role that the youth of the country will have to play in the electoral outcome especially given their anger with lack of employment and cut in education funding but also the 10% reservation that was just rolled out.