Does youth trump experience in the Lok Sabha stakes?
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.
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?