The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Passion stirred in coffee cups

Bangalore, April 13: Dating is an all-new game in the caffeine holes in India’s Silicon Valley as polls have overtaken passion at the tables ringed by young professionals.

Peep in during weekends at the popular coffee bar on Lavelle Road, an upmarket residential locality, and find the educated 20-somethings discuss politics with passion.

They may have never been to a polling station but their grasp of poll strategies and their vision for the future is impressive.

Take, for instance, 24-year-old Rishaad Vazirally and 22-year-olds Lipi Banerjee, Samyukta Varma and Gayatri Vijaykumar who heatedly talk polls over mugs of cold coffee, amid trendy interiors complete with a mammoth wallpaper of a hunk and a couple of jean-clad nubile models and a smooth, smart digital jukebox.

“We must vote sensibly because our future rests in the hands of these leaders,” they chorus, undistracted by the fantastic names of the concoctions they sip, like Blue Mountain Jamaica and Javan Brew.

All have a common grudge: they say their parents and relatives have often returned without finding their names on the electoral rolls, and they would rather each party announced their candidate for the top post — such as the Prime Minister or the chief minister — before polls and not just for each constituency.

This, the group says, should be made mandatory through electoral reform.

But a candidate with a good track record is the most important criterion. “If they are intelligent and brainy like say Amisha Patel (the actress who is said to be a gold medallist in academics), they must take to politics. We must have people from diverse domains because their experience will help better planning and management,” says Rishaad, head of sales and marketing at an energy management firm.

His friends concur. “Yes, we must have a huge number of professionals to make a difference and to contend with layers and layers of bureaucracy,” says Lipi, who works for a German company.

“We need professionals who can do what they are voted for,” says Samyukta, a graduate in English and international relations from the US, who is quick to clarify that the suggestion is not to “ape the West”. A civil aviation expert to draw up plans for this sector or one from the IT industry to voice an opinion on behalf of computer professionals, the youngsters suggest.

Gayatri, who recently quit a call-centre job, looks forward to a people’s representative from among the big names in the IT sector. “They (candidates) must spell out their academic and professional achievements and give us a vision document well ahead of the elections,” she says.

The Centre’s India Shining campaign and the public funds it is supposed to have used up don’t go down well with them. “Nobody is looking at the quality of life, but mere figures of GDP. That’s not enough. The poor are getting poorer and this could lead to a drastic fallout at a later stage,” says Lipi, seconded by Rishaad.

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