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Youth Power

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Recent political developments have led to the two main political parties in Uttarakhand to adopt a youthful profile. A young Chief Minister and relatively younger Leader of the Opposition and President of the State Unit of the Congress! However, will this impact on the way the state evolves from here on?

The practitioners of power, particularly at the highest levels, naturally have a perspective quite different to that of the common man. Their goals are beyond the commoner’s daily struggle to make ends meet. Hence, while it may be thought that Uttarakhand’s priority today is development, the politicians know better. While lip-service has to be paid to ‘public service’, they know well that far more important is the issue of which contracts are going to whom; what impact policy change would have on the earnings in which sectors; and, of course, what the prospects are of getting a party ticket in the next election.

Traditionally, it has been a very carefully structured world, built up over the decades to extract votes from the electorate with as little effort as possible. ‘Development’ has been substituted increasingly with raiding the public exchequer to distribute all sorts of goodies. After all, there is moral sanction to extort from the tax-paying rich post-election, even to the point of destroying industry and enterprise. Of course, those who don’t pay taxes cannot be touched as they invariably are exempt for one reason or another – a ‘creamy layer’ as it were. And who cares about the long term effects; after all, the purpose of life is to acquire ‘escape velocity’ enough to get to the US!

The coming up of a parallel world of anarchic freedom in cyberspace has proved a great inconvenience. An increasing number of the youth marches now to a different drum-beat altogether. Will its maverick ways impact upon the all important function of life – the elections? There doesn’t seem to be appreciation enough of the emerging culture it represents, which is sharp-edged, irreverent and highly opinionated. In the essence, it is obligated to nobody.

Are the two major parties in a position to undergo the necessary transformation – thereby acknowledging youth participation – or will faith be placed on the usual caste and community combinations? There is potential for a substantial shift in urban areas towards unconventional alternatives. How long can the past hold the future in thrall? Can the people afford to invest in the politics of the past? The people of the state may not have much of a say directly in the course events will take on the national stage, but they can act with greater sophistication in their immediate area of influence.