The generation gap of governance
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What does this mismatch mean? The growing disparity between India's elderly rulers and its youthful population raises the spectre that India's youth will become increasingly marginalised when it comes to politics, jeopardising the representational quality of India's democratic system. There are at least three dimensions to this challenge.
First, there is suggestive evidence that India's youth are feeling excluded from the political process. A 2008 survey of Indians between 14 and 34 carried by out by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies showed that while 85 per cent of young respondents agreed that citizens have a duty to vote during elections, two-thirds supported the notion that in India power rests with too few people. Hence, it is not surprising that three in four young Indians surveyed endorse the idea of reserving seats in Parliament specifically for youth.
Second, this sense of exclusion is fed by the marked lack of democracy within India's major political parties. Although many parties have intricate, decentralised procedures for candidate selection on paper, in practice they often authorise the party leader to select their slate of candidates. This is true for both established parties, which have organisations that have atrophied over time, and for newer parties, which have not dedicated themselves to the hard work of creating enduring party structures. The lack of intra-party democracy means that the options for advancement within the party hierarchy are limited. Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi rightly deserves credit for his efforts to revive the party's youth wing, but as Mehboob Jeelani has written in Caravan, these long-term efforts have often fallen prey to short-term political expediency — as was seen in the 2010 assembly elections in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in 2012.
Third, to the extent that there are youthful representatives in Indian political society, it is not necessarily the case that they are representatives of the youth. For instance, even though India's younger MPs are not grey-haired themselves, many owe their position, in part, to their grey-haired ancestors. According to data collected by Patrick French, every MP under the age of thirty is "hereditary"— or has a significant ancestral connection in politics. More than two-thirds of the 66 MPs under the age of 40 have hereditary connections. It is increasingly clear that the youngsters who have claimed positions of relative power are hardly representative of the masses of their generation. What do India's young MPs stand for? The simple answer is: we don't really know. As Pratap Bhanu Mehta has noted, most of India's young politicians have localised power bases. With perhaps a few exceptions, very few of India's young MPs have much profile outside of their constituencies or have exercised leadership on crucial issues of national importance.