"What do you want to be when you grow up? How many of you said 'Doctor', 'Pilot', 'Engineer'?" If we were in the same room, we would probably see a lot of hands up.
Now let us ask this- "How many of you said 'Politician' when asked what you want to become?" Probably none of you would have raised your hand.
Why Is That?
Is it because we have only seen politicians shout on TV, or come to our neighbourhood wearing innumerable garlands, or we think that politics is too dirty for educated and woke people like us? The reason can be anything but we know that according to a survey in 2016, only 18% Indian youth said that they have "little interest" in politics and 46% said that they have "no interest in politics."
Our Call To Action To You: Join Electoral Politics
While it may appear that the current system disincentivises honesty and good work, it is only when a critical mass of principled representatives become part of the system that we will have the power to change it.
In the past decade, India had a handful of fellowships (maybe four) but today we have more than ninety fellowships in the development space. This has led to shifts in conversation, availability of brilliant minds in the development space and flourishing of organizations and opportunities. There is no reason why this cant happen in politics.
We Offer Top Three Reasons For Why You, Yes You, Should Consider Joining Electoral Politics
First reason to be a politician is that politics is an arena where most pivotal decisions are made. If we pause and think about it, some of the most important decisions in the history of our country and world are taken by politicians. Five year plans and centralized economic activity, emergency, economic liberalization, Right to information and Right to education, demonetization- all these decisions were taken by politicians and changed India forever- for better or worse. Big reforms happen through both social movements and political will. However, we know that in India, it is the elected representatives where the buck stops. So let's occupy these positions and create both incremental and transformational change.
Second reason for being a politician is the scope of work and the sheer scale at which politicians can make an impact is unimaginable. The resources that our representatives have are incomparable to any CSR budget. For FY 2018-19, the total CSR budget as reported to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs was 11,867 Crore while the total Union Budget was 24,00,000 Crore. Our elected representatives decide where this money is allocated. Just imagine the impact right allocation and efficient delivery of these funds can have on the lives of 1.2 billion people, if there is political will and right leadership.
Third and probably the most important reason is that we must represent the voice of the people, using the opportunities our country has given us. President Mukherjee once said,"We should have 1,000 members of parliament." He remarked that it is difficult to truly represent the country as diverse and as populated as India, through a few hundred MPs. And do the voices in the parliament represent India? 50% population in India is below the age of 30, but only 6% MPs are less than the age of 35 years and most of them are from political families.
50% population in India is women, but only 14.39% members in Lok Sabha are women. While we can't change the number of MPs allowed by tomorrow, we can enter local politics today. We can harness the power of the local panchayats and municipal councils, get elected in these areas and try to represent and serve the people of India.
Let's occupy Indian politics. We share and reshare posts by Alexandria Ocazio Cortez and fawn over Jacinda Arden's leadership, why can't we be the creators of impact which can truly touch lives of people through the most powerful vehicle of public service- politics.
We at Indian School of Democracy hope to support many of you in this journey. We conduct short term and long term programs to nurture principled leaders with moral courage and imagination, to enter politics. It is time we rethink public leadership and politics. India needs new leaders in our parliaments, assemblies, panchayats and municipal corporations -- leaders who are true representatives of the society. We need representatives and not rulers and we think our generation has the power, potential and duty to serve through politics.
Hemakshi and Prakhar are Co-Founders of Indian School of Democracy, which is a non-partisan organization. Along with their team, they are working towards nurturing principled politicians by giving them hard skills, creating spaces for inner work and creating a community of political leaders rooted in the ideals of sarvodaya.