They are young, not necessarily khadi-clad, carry the latest brand of mobile phones and zip in their chauffeur-driven cars. They idolise the likes of Rahul Gandhi and Atal Behari Vajpayee. If not working, you can catch them at PVR or Inox. Meet Bengaluru’s young netas, determined to bring about "some much needed change" to the city.
In the aftermath of the parliamentary elections there was much newsmedia coverage on the involvement of youth in political campaigning. With dust now having settled and the council election coming up for Bengaluru, Citizen Matters talked to around two dozen youth in the age range of 20-35, who are either interested in tickets for the council elections or plan to campaign for others. All of them, barring one, are with either the Congress or BJP party.
Who are they and what is drawing them to politics?
"If you give a chance to youth, work will get done", says 33-year-old Kiran Kumar B S, General Secretary of the Karnataka Pradesh Youth Congress Committee, who lives in Kempegowda Nagar. An engineering graduate from Dayanand Sagar College of Engineering, Kumar decided to get into politics full time. "My mom asks why I got into this after engineering. But what is the point of doing a nine to five job? Who will run the country?" he asks.
Involved in politics for more than a decade, Kumar is now setting his eyes on the BBMP council elections, due sometime this year. He explains that it is his work over the years that will give him a chance to contest in the coming elections. The local people approach us for all types of problems and we have also been holding health camps every year, he says. "The seniors see our work and give us a ticket. The local people also ask us to contest. This is how I decided to contest".
Film producer and real estate investor G R Vishwanath, who resides in Malleshwaram, joined the BJP last year. The 29-year-old, who has produced Kannada films like Chendulli Cheluve and O Manase, says youngsters should be given an opportunity in politics. "We are ambitious. We can’t sleep if we don’t finish our work", he says, stating the various problems in Bangalore like no proper parking, no clean roads, slums and corruption.
"We should have a call centre where you can call and register complaints. It should be one single number for all kinds of problems. Now we have so many different numbers for different things. Nobody remembers these numbers", explains Vishwanath, who is also looking to contest in the council elections.
Inspired by their leaders, they dive in
For some, local politicians like BJP MP Ananth Kumar, Congress MLA Krishna Byregowda (or KBG in short) and aviation entrepreneur Capt. Gopinath are an inspiration to take that plunge into politics.
35-year-old Girinagar-based K R Venkatesh Gowda ventured into politics while in college in the early nineties, while at Shimoga. This law graduate, who also runs a Bangalore-based NGO called Prerna Foundation adds, "I am also an aspirant for council elections. Krishna Byregowda is my role model. I want to take this as a positive challenge. I am doing the groundwork now". He says Krishna Byregowda is an inspiration because he is not a typical politician. "He has an innovative approach with a positive attitude and diplomacy. He is a professional".
Gowda is also among the more seasoned youngsters we met. He is already using the ‘patience’ word as he names his role model. He says matter-of-factly, "I’m from a middle class family. I don’t have any influence here. But politics is a waiting game. You have to wait. You can’t be desperate. Your approach needs to be clear. Go through the right channel. I can’t afford to be a Personal Secretary to Krishna Byregowda. I’m General Secretary of State Youth Congress".
Nineteen-year-old MV Suresh, a first-timer who campaigned for Ananth Kumar says the entire campaign was a learning experience for him. Suresh is studying for a technical diploma at an ITI. "Ananth Kumar used to come and talk to us also. He personally came and appreciated me", he says, clearly smitten by the leader.
As the young brigade is diving into politics, their aspirations are many. This year, during the Lok Sabha elections, a number of youngsters were seen campaigning for various candidates in Bangalore.
Suresh, who mostly did door-to-door campaigning and postering says, "I enjoy doing this, sometimes my studies get affected but then now I want to make a career in politics". He says he will campaign for the council elections if it doesn’t clash with his exams. "Campaigning was one of the most memorable experiences of my life", he says referring to his work during Ananth Kumar’s race.
Thirty-five-year-old Rashmi, who does not use a last name or initial, the only woman Citizen Matters spoke to, says, "I think the influx of youth was because everyone now is tired and wants a change. I came in because I wanted to see the change". Rashmi, who teaches dance, campaigned door-to-door for KBG. She was in-charge of one of the groups. Rashmi had campaigned earlier for KBG’s Byatrayanpura constituency elections.
Unlike earlier, youth from a variety of different backgrounds forayed into politics this year, and the young campaigners themselves point this out. Venkatesh R, 22, who campaigned for Ananth Kumar captures this feeling well when he says that young people have always been there in politics, "but the interesting thing now is that not all are coming from political backgrounds. I see many people who were engineers, marketing professionals and others who came up for campaigning."
They say they will bring in a positive politics
Even though many do not have political aspirations, they are looking to campaign again for the council polls. And they seem to be driven by a common idea – that if more young people join politics, the negative image of politics itself will somehow go away.
Software engineer B Nithin, sees himself as part of this changemaking. "I think some orthodox ideologies will vanish if more and more young people join and slowly reach the cream layer of the party", says the 27-year-old Nithin, who campaigned for the BJP in April. Twenty-five-year-old Nagaraju Mani, who also campaigned for the BJP, says, "I think unless young people volunteer the negative image of politics would also not change".
Bhushan Nagendra, who campaigned for KBG in the Lok Sabha elections also feels that things might change with young, educated and impressive politicians coming forward. "This was one of the reasons why so many young people came forward for campaigning", he says.
Anil Shetty, 22, agrees that it is this negative image of politics that has kept most youngsters from it. "People should have service mentality. If you want to make money, go do business. Politics is not to make money", says Shetty, who lives in Teachers Colony, near HSR Layout. A stock advisor, (yes, at 22, he heads a local securities firm) Shetty who campaigned for independent candidate Capt Gopinath in April, says, "I’m not supporting Capt Gopinath as an individual, I’m supporting his movement. Anybody does good work, I’ll join them."
Is ‘youth’ alone good enough to bet politics on?
Some youngsters however are arguing for the ‘kursi’ on the mere grounds that youth itself being somehow better than age. Not everyone will accept this claim, but all the same it appears to be a widely held view amongst the youth we spoke to.
"Give an opportunity to youngsters. We have many years ahead of us. Give opportunity to people between the age of 30 and 40. What will a 60-year-old person do?", asks 28-year-old M Venkatesh, BJP President of Malleswaram constituency and a businessman, who has been involved in politics since the age of 16.
Murali Prasad, member of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidya Parishad (ABVP), has similar views. "I think this is the right time when young people should come into politics. Earlier politicians were not open in welcoming young people, they thought we were immature, inexperienced. But now they want to interact more with us. At the end it is the young population that decides the fate of a country", says the 20-year-old, adding that he would one day like to become the Chief Minister of Karnataka.
Still, not all the youth seem set on the idea that they are somehow automatically better off than the older lot. Politics has nothing to do with age, says Shetty. "It is not about youngsters getting into politics. Whether you are 70 or younger, you need to be knowledgeable".
Amidst college, work, movies, coffee shops and hanging out, these youngsters are looking forward to the BBMP elections this year, be it just for campaigning or even contesting. Venkatesh Gowda of the Congress says, "We will have a campaign workshop next month for aspirants. This will be about how to tackle the BJP, regional forces, independent candidates and the money force. We will come up with solutions to make ward committees." ⊕
Don’t miss our special profiles feature: Meet the youngsters who took the plunge