Our political leaders are often heard saying that the aspirations of the country's youth population have to be met if India hopes to make it big in the 21st century. The youths of this country also love to see a leader who understand their hopes and ambitions. One of the major reason behind Narendra Modi's sweeping the 2014 general election was his reaching out to the youths of the country. The Congress though had a younger leader in Rahul Gandhi but Modi was far more successful in hitting the chord of the young minds in that election.
But Modi is an exception in a country where gerontocracy dominates its political culture. Even though India is one of the youngest countries in the world and is predicted to be the youngest in the year 2020, its politicians show little signs of getting younger. Forty per cent of India's citizens are aged less than 20 but their representatives in politics reflect little on that very little.
Two 90-up leaders contesting the state polls of 2016
In the states that are going to elections this year, some of the top leaders are too old to find a parity level with the young electorate but still they are among the frontrunners to become the next chief ministers. While two nonagenarians in VS Achutanandan and M Karunanidhi are in the hunt to become the chief ministers of their respective states---Kerala and Tamil Nadu (both are hopeful about the anti-incumbency wave bringing them to power in the two southern states), the 81-year-old Tarun Gogoi is fighting the opposite battle to save his throne in Assam. PM Modi even mocked the Assam chief minister's age while canvassing support for the BJP's face in this election-Sarbananda Sonowal, aged 53.
Even Jayalalithaa, the current CM of Tamil Nadu who is fighting a crucial election, is not in a good health. Though much younger than her rival Karunanidhi, the 68-year-old leader is seen addressing her election rallies while sitting. The Left in West Bengal is also dominated by old guards although quite a few youngsters have been fielded this time. Former West Bengal CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, 72, is not contesting this election owing to health issues.
Can these leaders connect with young voters?
But the question is: Can these leaders really connect with the young voters? Many had expected MK Stalin to have been taken over the reins from his father Karunanidhi and projected as the party's CM candidate but it hasn't happened. Even in UP which will go to polls earky next year, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav will spearhead the ruling Samajwadi Party but that doesn't mean his father, the 76-year-old Mulayam has loosened his grip in the party's affairs.
The same applies in Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi's case. He was made the party's vice-president in early 2013 and the Congress has contested all elections since then virtually under his leadership. But yet, it is 69-year-old Sonia Gandhi who remains the grand-old party's face. In the BJP, too, former deputy prime minister Lal Krishna Advani is though not as prominent in the Modi era but the 88-year-old leader hasn't quit politics either.
It is an irony that a young country like India is still being dominated by people who are past their primes. How far are we still from a collective demand for universal empowerment of the youth in politics?