Debating India


A Little More Babysitting

Anupreeta DAS

Monday 7 June 2004, by DAS*Anupreeta

Alas, gerontocracy continues. Young MPs wait to acquire some gray.

There may be a gush of young blood flowing through the Congress party’s arteries, but it hasn’t really streamed into the new cabinet. Of the several young Congress MPs elected to the 14th Lok Sabha-most of them for the first time-only one who is below 45 years, Kumari Selja, has been given a ministerial berth.

So it’s been a let-down considering the party distributed 50 tickets to candidates who were below 40. "But there are a large number of experienced people at the top who had to be accommodated," explains party strategist Jairam Ramesh.

Some youngsters agree. "Young people should be given positions as ministers, but they do need some experience first," says 27-year-old Milind Deora, MP from South Mumbai. But others are surprised that neither Jyotiraditya Scindia, 32, who has already spent two years as the Guna MP, or Ajay Maken, 40, the former Delhi assembly speaker who wrested the New Delhi seat from BJP heavyweight Jagmohan, were not given ministerial berths. "We were hoping that Ajay Maken becomes a minister. It would have been good for Delhi," says another first-timer, 39-year-old Sandeep Dikshit. Yet others are downright upset. "In politics, it’s not what you wish for, but whatever is decided for you by the party," rues one.

So what’s in store for the newcomers? According to a senior Congress leader, they will be put to various uses. "Some will be made parliamentary secretaries, while others will be drafted in to work for the organisation." A couple of them may also eventually get ministerial berths "after performances are reviewed". Many of these MPs are ready to do whatever work the party assigns. Also, the idea of working as a young team, led by Rahul Gandhi, is an attraction. "We come from similar backgrounds, have similar goals and no conflicting egos," says Deora.

Some have chalked out their agendas. "Party building, galvanising workers, inducting youth and promoting the interests of agriculture will be my target areas," says 26-year-old Sachin Pilot, the youngest MP. For his family friend and first-time MP from Shahjahanabad, Jitin Prasad, 30, it’s "strengthening the party structure in UP, and translating the pro-Congress mood into votes". Scindia is keen to continue his development initiatives in the twin constituencies of Guna and Gwalior, while Maken promises to fight for full statehood for Delhi. Former MLA and first-time MP from Bhiwani, Kuldeep Bishnoi, 35, plans to bring development funds to his state, while East Delhi MP Sandeep Dikshit wants to voice the policy concerns of the development sector in Parliament.


in Outlook India, Monday, June 7, 2004.

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