Does youth trump experience in the Lok Sabha stakes?

March 30, 2009

Indian political parties and leaders are courting young voters for the upcoming general elections and the age of political leaders like L.K. Advani and Rahul Gandhi is being made into an electoral issue.

After all nearly two-thirds of India is below 35 years of age, the cut-off for ‘youth’ according to the National Youth Policy.

But does the electorate care?

A number of surveys and studies seem to suggest otherwise.

One nation-wide survey reported in the ‘Mint’ newspaper shows voters may not quite prefer “fresh and young” candidates, with two-thirds of the 17,640 people sampled preferring experienced candidates.

A series of post-poll surveys carried out since 1996 by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies shows voter turnout is highest in the age group 46-55. The turnout in the age group 18-25 has been consistently lower.

However, a study by the Imagindia institute says parties that put up candidates in the age group 30-45 have an advantage. This is based on what the institute calls ‘Age-Voter pulse model’. It assumes that the ability of a candidate to connect with the pulse of voters depends upon the age difference with the electorate.

Being a layman I am in no position to argue with the maths of the model but another study by PRS Legislative Research caught my attention.

This says that ‘young’ MPs (those aged less than 40) participated the least in the 14th Lok Sabha proceedings. They accounted for 11 percent of seats but only around seven percent of debates.

MPs over the age of 70 accounted for 10 percent of seats and nine percent of total debates.

In other words, their contribution was greater even though they occupy marginally lesser seats than the younger MPs.

MPs aged between 55 and 70 years accounted for almost 22 percent of seats and around 43 percent of all debates.

The youthful voters don’t vote as much and even when they do, they don’t necessarily vote for the young. Besides, the older political leaders perform better and are more trusted by the electorate. Old stalwarts like Somnath Chatterjee and George Fernandes have an enviable record of winning elections and eyeballs in parliament.

And most of the young brigade — Rahul Gandhi, Jiten Prasada, Sachin Pilot, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Manvendra Singh, Kuldeep Bishnoi and Naveen Jindal are reaping a legacy sowed by parents.

So does a younger age profile matter when it comes to the ever so youthful electorate electing representatives?

Or is the Indian voter shrewder than that?


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i dont really think that numbers would matter too much. what instead requires analysis is the content of the intervention made by the young turks. moreover, if we have to look forward then the hope of fresh ideas,opinions and views rests only on the young minds. the old guard we all know are too deeply and strongly entrenched in tradition, prejudices, and inertia of course, to come out with something new. the world rests on hope, and with young blood occupying the hallowed portals atleast that hope remains.

Posted by sudhanshu | Report as abusive

Hi Vipul.

Its a good effort made by you to present a picture of the issue people should seriously think about. In my opinion the Indian voter should change the stereotypical mentallity to vote only for a so called “experienced” politician rather a well educated young leaders. They can better lead India and are able to make better policies to fight against the challenges whether it is external or internal.

Posted by sudha | Report as abusive

i totally agree that being a young candidate doesn’t necessarily translate into votes, for other factors such as experience also count, and in a vast and a socially varied country like India, where fruits of development have still not reached a vast majority, many still prefer to vote for familiar faces, for multitude of reasons such as caste or religion, but very rarely development..however i disagree that these leaders get votes because they perform better in parliament. It is also a fact that it is the inapt handling by these legislators, which has left country’s economic, social and political fabric in tatters.

Posted by Vijayant | Report as abusive

The need is of Honest people, dedicated to the service of country – whether Young or experienced.


Posted by Aftab | Report as abusive

Young politicians in India are mostly the ones coming from the high and mighty class. Rahuls and Jyotiradityas don’t represent the Indian masses. A Somnath or Fernandes, despite being old, represent Indian middle class and that, to my mind, is the reason why India goes for such politicians. Lalu, Paswan and Pawar win votes and eyeballs in parliament since they come from middle class and know the real issues voters struggle with. Youngters, on the other hand, are still busy analysing Indian demoracy and voters in a bookish manner.

Posted by Rahul Mishra | Report as abusive

pls accept my view to help young voters to give immediate jobs whether 1000rupees or greater than 100000rupees for self sufficient at first whether cong or bjp or else any body

Posted by bikash ranjan pattnayak | Report as abusive

It’s astonishing to me that 2/3s of India is under age 35! I wonder if your Jindal is related to the governor of the U.S. state of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal. And it was cool to see there is another Gandhi coming up – hope he (or she?) is as good as those past. Our collective futures are intertwined, so as long as they are moderate people, I’m glad there are a lot of young promising leaders. Here in the U.S. we SO need to get rid of the old ones from government, they have ruined us. Best of luck to you all.

Posted by Michelle | Report as abusive

age definitely is a thing to consider these days…i believe…but then, experience too counts a lot…

but if we look at the US of A, which i think the world does, America voted and they chose young age over experience…I’m not saying we should be copy-cats…but the world does copies America :)

Oh! the link to Imagindia’s research on your blog is not working :( ….a copy of the model can be requested from here n=com_artforms&formid=2&Itemid

Posted by Rami Renthlei | Report as abusive

I think candidates affiliated to political parties ultimately get drown in power politics irrespective of the age factor. Look at Varun Gandhi, he appeared to be a sensible guy, but the Hindutva fever has caught on him as well.
why not focus on independent candidates like Meera Sanyal and GR Gopinath? Read

Posted by thetrajectory | Report as abusive

Perhaps, there exists a dichotomy in analysing age band thresholds in this particular case. The a) threshold age band for “youth” in general, in India and b) the threshold age band of a so called “young politician”
have to be understood differently and indeed have different physical significances. Apparently there is no direct correlation between the two.
While the former can more or less be calculated by putting in a demographical cum mathematical model, the latter is less definitive and primarily a function of perceiving age in a relative manner.
When the legacy has been of having octagenarians and heptagenarians as leaders “capturing” the helm (and the list is pretty big), it is obvious that the people will “perceive” the “young politician” age to be 40-50, even 50-60.
Not going very far back, how did the public in general see Pramod Mahajan (died at age 56), Madhav Rao Scindia (died at age 56), Rajesh Pilot (died at age 55) to name a few, when compared to the likes of Atal Behari Vajpayee, H.D Deve Gowda etc.? Sheila Dikshit’s is 70+, Manmohan Singh is nearly 80 and L.K Advani, already past!
Times are changing, mindset is changing and the two age band thresholds are indeed coming down, but it shouldn’t be a surprize that there is always going to be a lag between the general “youth” age band
and the “young politician” age band. Thresholds and perceptions do not change overnight. I wouldn’t be surprized if the 55-70 band swoops over in the coming elections!
Disappointing, but my “guestimate” would be another 10-20 years before seeing the 30-40 age band in our parliament!
However, the lag I have been talking about would still be there !!

Posted by Rupam Srivastava | Report as abusive

Changing times, certainly… but i still see a hung parliament with lots of horse trading to come .. since both the parties have equal chances and no clear cut majority event this time ..

Posted by Vikram | Report as abusive

Current economic paradigms (read propaganda /advertising) dictates that youth not age is to be place on the pedistal to be idolized. The propaganda has worked and the sagacity that comes with experience and age is not honored. Youth implies hope, which in these times is in great need. The immoral elders of the recent and past political and economic powers, especially in America, have shown all that older men in particular can not be trusted. Let’s hope that some honorable elders can still come into political power.

Posted by Josephcraig | Report as abusive


This subject can be an more meaningful if you do some research into “Education, Awareness & National Vision of Youth of India” provided you do not limit it to metros. Considerable number is bound to be either uneducated or marginally educated. This group won’t be having an idea of history and geography of India and would be more concerned about making ends meet than about national policies of nation. Most of the graduates again would be having limited idea about history, geography of India and limited capacity of making any intelligent criticism of National level politics, policies. Remaining youth who are aware and able to measure pros and cons of politics and policies won’t be even giving a damn to politics.

In nutshell Indian people who go and vote are idiots. The politicians we have in parliament are the choice of idiots… Whether politician is >35 or <35 doesn’t matter.

Posted by Rohit | Report as abusive

s it is essential that youths come n take part in the election n give a thumping majority to manmohan singh so that he runs the govt well n let him take the country to the superpowr level

Posted by satyadev | Report as abusive

Indian politics favors seniority, status quo and royalty. With poor inner-party democracy, the young elected politicians do not get a fair share of role in the decision making process. Instead they’ve to wait in a long line of other senior, and often older, politicians in the party for their turn.

Posted by Nikhil | Report as abusive

we should definitely required young and experienced leaders.
best example is chief minister of Gujarat Narendra modi.
not too old not too young and unexperienced.

Posted by jaymin kansara | Report as abusive

Indian politics favors seniority, status quo and royalty.
Even if young politicians are elected to the office they don’t get the portfolios or the roles they deserve. They’ve to serve their time in the party. Which means wait for their turn in a long line of more senior, often older, politicians.

I don’t care whether a politcian is young or old; as long as he/she delivers results without being corrupt.

Posted by Nikhil | Report as abusive

As a confirmed ‘oldie’ please allow me to put in my two bits. I think I can best illustrate the issue by recounting an incident that happened in 1979. I was doing a course (in India) with an officer of the US Navy. He was then reading a book on the 1962 Indo-China war. When I asked him his opinion, he smiled and said that the first thing that struck him was that he was familiar with most of the personalities mentioned in the book. Even though the events it portrayed were almost 17 years ago. Names such as Jagjivan Ram, Morarji Desai, Chavan and the like were still star performers on the Indian political stage. He was having difficulty even remembering who was the American Vice President or Secretary of Defence in 1962!

I think the Indin politician needs to realise that governing a country is not just about experience. Its also about fresh ideas, fresh legs and energy. They need a use by date.

Posted by Dara | Report as abusive