The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Nod to vote, nay to power career

Suchetana Bhattacharjee, daughter of chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, told Metro a few months ago that politics was not her cup of tea.

“Only some people can make it in politics,” added the 23-year-old, who had dabbled in student politics while at Presidency College, studying political science. Suchetana, instead, has followed the call of the wild, with an anxious but proud father backing her conservationist cause all the way.

The opinion poll conducted among a representative slice of young Calcutta reveals a Suchetana-like steer-clear policy from politics, but a firm faith in the democratic process.

Over 95 per cent of respondents — an equal number of boys and girls, including students, employed and unemployed youth — say they will queue up at the booths on Monday to exercise their franchise.

“I will definitely go and cast my vote. I think voting is very important, as it gives us the most significant opportunity to express our views on the way we want the country to be run,” says Prithviraj Chakraborty, a young businessman, who lives in Salt Lake and is a first-time voter.

That casting their vote is a big deal is reflected in the fact that 51 per cent with names on the electoral rolls say they got enlisted by their “own effort”. Political parties and government machinery, taken together, fail to match personal enterprise.

Know your facts

Awareness of local politics is (somewhat surprisingly) high, with over 87 per cent correctly naming the major candidates in their constituencies.

Proving that bigger the stage, greater the interest among the young, the survey reveals 82 per cent being sure of the parliamentary constituency, while a mere 53 per cent knows the Assembly segment accurately.

“We should know what’s happening around us and the lines the parties are taking. I try my best to keep track of their claims and developments,” says Mayank Kejriwal, back from Michigan after completing his studies.

But would Mayank, a debutant voter, consider joining politics' “Never. It’s a dirty world, with a lot of illegal and immoral activity required to reach the top.”

The ‘P’ word

That’s what the survey numbers shout out loud — 84 per cent quizzed during peak pre-poll activity around town say a firm “no” to politics.

Corruption, lack of understanding of issues and too much tension are cited as the main reasons for the growing gap between GenX and political activity.

But then again, ideology, not the penchant for power, is the main driver for the minuscule 16 per cent — 22 per cent male and 11 per cent female — saying “yes” to politics.

How many parents today would actually encourage their children to pursue politics'

Not many it would seem — if our chief minister allows his daughter to do her own thing, for almost all other parents, politics seems taboo.

“I would never want Koel to join politics and would never have supported it if she had decided to do so,” declares actor Ranjit Mullick.

“Primarily because one has to say yes to whatever the party dictates, even if you don’t like it, which I think is impossible. Besides, I don’t think politics now is a very respectable option,” he explains.

Koel is clearly her father’s daughter. While displaying the enthusiasm of a first-time voter the Metro survey reflects (“Of course I will vote, as I think it’s my responsibility as a citizen,” she stresses on poll eve), she crinkles her pretty nose at the thought of being in politics.

“That has never ever been an option for me. I don’t understand anything about politics at all, and I don’t understand the games political leaders play. Sometimes they are friends, sometimes foes,” says the rising Tollywood star.

The age factor

The rising sons — and daughters — in the political arena don’t seem to have had much of an impact on our respondents.

Towering above the crowd of fresh faces — from the house of the Gandhis, Pilots, Scindias, Dikshits, Chautalas, Yadavs and Singhs — is a 79-year-old.

If Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee emerges as the Face of Poll 2004 with 52 per cent, the mother-daughter duo of Sonia-Priyanka is a mere blip, tied at nine per cent. L.K. Advani, however, slips behind the Hemas and Govindas on the visibility scale.

Beyond politics

If politics is a no-no, is serving the nation a thing of the past'

There are other ways to serve the country, declares the youth. If only five per cent would choose to tread the political path, for the majority, achieving excellence in whatever one is doing, working with an NGO and starting a social organisation are the chores of choice.

“If all of us do our work well, it moves the country forward. After all, everybody has a role to play in the development of the country,” says Anamika Gupta of Bhawanipur college.

So, the mantra of the young and bright: just do your own thing, and do it right.

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