Youth stepping up for India's political families

Youth stepping up for India's political families
Indian Congress Party Vice president Rahul Gandhi speaks during an All India Valmiki Federation rally in New Delhi on October 8, 2013. Gandhi, whose family has given India three premiers and whose mother is powerful Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, is touted by supporters as front-runner for the premier's job if Congress wins re-election in 2014.

THE sons and daughters of some of India's most prominent politicians are looking to make a mark in upcoming elections.

Madhya Pradesh alone will see some two dozen familiar political family names either contesting elections or working for their families' parties when it becomes the first of five states to go to the polls to fill all 230 of its assembly seats on Nov 25.

Certainly, political dynasties are not new to Indian politics. The lineage of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi includes three former prime ministers. What is new is the growing percentage of young voters. There are now 378.6 million between the ages of 18 and 35 in the voting population of 762 million.

Parties see the young, who include a record 150 million first-time voters, as an important segment going into elections in the five states of Rajasthan, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram and Chattisgarh, and next year's parliamentary elections.

Some rough estimates say there is likely to be a 10 to 15 per cent increase in the number of politicians joining the family profession in these assembly and parliamentary elections.

"There is, of course, nothing new about sons and daughter getting (party) tickets but the proportion is increasing because there are more older politicians who want to protect their political legacy," said Dr Sanjay Kumar, political analyst with the Delhi-based Study of Developing Societies.

"All the political parties also think that since there will be a large number of young voters, one way of mobilising the youth is with younger candidates."

Mr Harish Khurana, the 36-year-old son of former Delhi chief minister Madan Lal Khurana, who has been battling ill health, said that in Delhi, which goes to the polls on Dec 1, the youth vote is crucial.

"Today in Delhi, 350,000 will be new voters and 60 per cent are below the ages of 40 to 45," he said. "People want a new generation... that is the reason more politicians want their families to come in to retain their seat."

Mr Khurana decided that he would work for the party while his brother Vimal would contest in the elections.

"We haven't come into politics today. We have been working for the last four years," added Mr Khurana, a member of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party which, ironically, has always accused the Congress of promoting dynasty politics.

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