The average age of India’s population is 27 years, whereas the average age of a Member of Parliament is 58 years. This clearly shows that for a country with 670 million population below the age of 25, India is being governed by people more than twice this age. This poor political representation motivated Sudhanshu Kaushik to work towards lowering the average age of candidacy and making politics more accessible.
Every government at all levels promises youth empowerment, but true empowerment would come only if there is a proper political representation.
A non-partisan, non-profit organisation, “Young India Foundation” (YIF) run by Kaushik is working towards involving people between the age of 21 and 25 in politics.
Young India Foundation
Sudhanshu Kaushik, the founder of YIF told The Logical Indian, “The last time a major action taken towards empowering the youth in politics was in 1989 when the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18.” He further adds, “Next we want the government to reduce the age of candidacy to 21-25 for better representation.”
YIF provides pro bono services like nomination paperwork, designing the campaign, legal help, analysis and management and with the preparation of election manifesto. YIF helps its candidates fight local body elections. “When we think politics, we think MPs and MLAs. We often overlook the local tier of governance, which is most empowered to make changes at the grassroots level.”
YIF specifically looks for candidates who, in their capacity have done considerable public service, but lack the resources to fight elections. “We are not looking for candidates with informal political patronage or those who are from the system. Rather we are looking for people, who have been outside the political spectrum but have the will and calibre for public service,” says Kaushik.
Politics-accessible to all
“We had a 23-year-old candidate, Abida from Jammu and Kashmir. She was campaigning to be the Sarpanch of Bari Darhal Panchayat. She left her studies in Nursing to make changes in her own hometown. She was up against a political stalwart who had been winning the elections from a long time. She received a total of 534 votes against the 570 won by the winner. Although she lost, for somebody from a conservative family, contesting election for the first time and losing by such small margin proved that it was not impossible,” he said.
Kaushik says that the major strength of YIF is that it prepares manifesto for the candidates not on broad claims but on immediate issues faced by the citizens. “Our candidate Sneha is contesting from Sonipat, Haryana. For her campaign, Our candidate Sneha is contesting from Sonipat, Haryana. For her campaign, our team is in the process of surveying her ward and the city and spoke to people about their problems. For example, there is a hospital in Sonipat and there is no proper path connecting it to all the houses, and it has been the same for 15 years now. Now, construction of a pucca road between that hospital and the last house in the ward formed one of the manifestos. So, we don’t talk about making broad claims like bringing development, but we address specific problems.”
YIF also encourages common young people to contribute in whichever way possible. During campaigning for a candidate Jagbir, who won a panch seat from Fatehpur, a song by an 11th standard girl was used as the campaign song. “I was giving Ted Talk to an audience of high-schoolers on youth rights. A young girl rose up and said that she would want to contribute her bit towards YIF. I was not sure how a 16-year-old would be able to do that. But 10 days later, I received a mail from her with a Hindi song. And we used this very song throughout Jagbir’s campaign. This is the crux of what YIF stands for-involvement of youth in politics,” said Kaushik.
The Logical Indian take
We are one of the countries with the youngest population in the world. It is dismal that we governed by people twice, even thrice our age. To understand the problems which plague the youth of the country, who better than a person among them? In recent times, the youth’s interest in politics has only increased. While many people would want to contest elections and bring concrete changes, they may not know the proper channel to do so. YIF is doing a great job collectivising young, passionate people and pushing them to contest elections.