20% of new MLAs under 35; women get short shrift

20% of new MLAs under 35;women get short shrift

New Delhi: Some one in five representatives elected to the five state assemblies on Monday are under 35, suggesting that legislatures have finally begun to reflect the predominantly youthful demographic profile in India.

Meanwhile, only 10% of the newly elected legislators are women, with no representation in the Mizoram assembly, in sharp contrast to the population c.

This is based on a Mint analysis of the election data put up by the Election Commission (EC) for the assemblies of Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Mizoram.

However, Mint wasn’t immediately able to ascertain the ages of legislators in the previous assemblies.

Also See Demographic Profile of Elected Candidates (Graphic)

According to the census of India 2001, the last time the country’s population was officially counted, 69% of the 1.1 billion population was below the age of 35 with 81% of the population under 44.

Data released by EC for the latest elections shows that 9% of the elected legislators were in the 25-34 age group, 24% in 35-44, 37% in 45-54, 29% in 55-74 and 2% above 75.

Indeed, several political parties say they have deliberately started fielding younger candidates and that, in some instances, this tactic is already paying off.

“Giving tickets to more number of (the) new generation and making them part of the decision-making process was the Congress’ agenda and a well-thought move. Congress has given tickets to a large number of youngsters in these elections and a vast majority of them have won also," says Sachin Pilot, one of the youngest members of Parliament from the Congress party who is from Rajasthan where the party upended the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

Of the total 32 candidates representing the Youth Congress, the youth wing of Congress, and recommended by Rahul Gandhi, the party’s general secretary, 22 won. Four of them are from Delhi, six in Rajasthan, eight in Madhya Pradesh, two in Mizoram and one in Chhattisgarh, says Pilot.

Some pundits note that while a demographic transition is inevitable, it might not change the overall polity in India.

“Majority of voters are also going to be from the younger generation which would also mean that more of youth would get elected," says T.V.R. Shenoy, a political analyst. “However, in terms of how politics would be impacted, I would say that what we really lack is character and that has nothing to do with age. Youth does not necessarily mean inexperience or good character. Similarly, it is unfair to equate old age in politics to corruption and nepotism."

The Congress party’s Pilot insists that the changing demographic profile of elected representatives will impact policymaking including in the next Lok Sabha, which will be formed after polls due before May. “The decision making in future should be in tune with what the youth think and want," he adds.

While women accounted for only 10.17% of all the winners, about one in three in the 25-34 age group was a woman.

Brinda Karat, a Rajya Sabha member of Parliament and a politiburo member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, says the low presence of women in these legislatures stems from the perception that they will be unable to mobilize adequate funds and, hence, not considered winnable.

“The Indian system has repeatedly sent a message that unless there is a legal mandate on political parties, we will continue with this dismal picture," says Karat. “It is a shame on our democracy that even after 60 years of independence less than 10% of women get elected in state elections across five states and that we haven’t been able to pass the Women’s Reservation Bill. This will continue till the mindset of political parties does not change," she added.

Incidentally, Karat’s own CPM party didn’t field a single woman candidate for the 34 seats that it contested in Rajasthan.