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Goa Youth in Politics: Bonded Labourers or Future Leaders

GoaChronicle.com spoke to the Presidents of the Youth Wing of the three prominent political parties in the state – Dr Pramod Sawant of the BJP, Pratima Coutinho of the Congress and Tanveer Khatib of the NCP. From being termed as bonded labourers of senior leaders to be groomed to take-on the reins, their views are diverse but touch upon the political pulse of the youth in Goa…

GC: What was the total number of youth members in your party prior to Goa Assembly Elections and what are the numbers now post the elections and formation of a new government?

PC: Prior to the elections the total number of youth members in Goa Pradesh Youth Congress (GPYC) were about 25,000. We have been since the last couple of months conducting youth membership drive in different constituencies, including our online registration we would have a total now of about 27,000 youth members.

TK: The NCP youth wing currently consists of 6000 members out of which 1200 could be termed as active members. We will be conducting our membership drives in the next couple of months are we are confident that we could touch 10,000 members in the state.

PS: Prior to the assembly elections we had a strong base of 50,000 youth members in BJP. Post the election and our government coming into power, when we had conducted a membership drive in which 3, 20,000 members had joined BJP, out of this number 1, 20,000 were youth.

GC:  Youth formed a catalyst in the recently concluded elections, how did you think your party faired in tapping into the youth. And do you think your organization strategy on the youth worked, if not why?

PC: I agree that youth were the catalyst in the elections; as Congress we could have addressed their concerns more appropriately and worked better strategies to get the youth to work along us. Unfortunately, I was elected to the president position with barely six months to prepare for the elections and set the right strategies to tap into the youth. Moreover, many youth felt disillusioned by certain acts of senior Congress leaders and the selection of the party tickets which should have gone to youth leaders who worked for the party for many years and not suddenly sprung up youth politicians riding on account of ‘family raj’. Many youth members resigned when tickets were not given to their leaders for example in the case of former GPCC general secretary Vijai Sardesai. So we were fighting the elections with a disillusioned and disappointed youth force.  There was also a strong anti-Congress wave whipped up by the BJP, many youth wanted to be a part of the anti-corruption fervor. I also agree that as Congress we have made mistakes because of which we lost the trust of the people.

TK: We contested the election with an alliance with Congress. And just as in a marriage you take the good, you also have to accept the not so good. So we were fighting the elections with a strong anti-incumbency, mis-match of constituencies, family raj and failure to counter the negative campaign on account of the anti-corruption drive. I would agree that we failed to tap into the recent enrolled first-time voters in the state, which were mostly youth and we could have made our presence felt both online and offline more effectively. But I would say we lost out of some wining seats because of the negative effects of the alliance.

PS: BJP is a very strong cadre based party and we groom our future leaders from grassroots.  Youth from Goa were and are still drawn to the leadership and vision of BJP- Goa. The youth of today is educated and with aspirations to see the country and state progress. They have understood that politics is vital component in the growth wheel of the country and therefore slowly they have started to play an active role in it. The first clear indication of that in the state is the number of voter turn-out to vote in the recently concluded elections. We wanted to provide Goa with a zero-corruption government and that is what the youth of the state also wanted, therefore the chose to side with us and our vision. The corruption of the Congress-NCP regime had demoralized the youth to an extent that youth were deterred from entering the political arena. But with BJP and its anti-corruption drive when in Opposition and now in ruling they found a hope.

GC: Does your party in the state believe that youth should be given more chances to play more active roles in the state-level politics?

PC: Yes at the Centre there is a concentrated drive by our leader Rahul Gandhi to bring talented and uncorrupt youth into mainstream politics. I cannot say the same about that at state-level, simply because the youth members in the state are like bonded labourers of the senior leaders. Youth of today want to be appreciated and accepted for the hard-work they do for the party, which does not happen at state-level, we are only called upon when there is some work to be done. We do get support from some of the senior leaders but in most cases we become pawns in the bigger political games being played by Congress leaders amongst themselves. The youth must be given more responsibilities but most all they need to be given the respect they deserve.

TK: As a party we have always believed that the youth is the future of politics in the state and Centre.  Today, NCP is the only party which had a massive signature campaign of over one crore signatures for a petition to set up Youth Commissions at Centre and state. We have also ensured that at assembly or parliamentary elections were give prominence to the future youth leaders of our party. Even in Goa, Yuri Alemao was an NCP Youth candidate.

PS: Look at our MLAs most of our elected representatives are first-timers and also young leaders. We are not dependent on ‘dynasty politics’ but people who want to bring about good governance. We believe in given chances to the youth, those that want to serve people with good governance and corruption free government.  And we would like to reach out to as many youth as possible to create better future leaders for the state.

GC: Social networking sites and mobile interfaces played a crucial role in the Goa Assembly elections, where did your party stand on this medium of communication to the youth?

PC: As youth president I accept that we did not fully-utilize the power social networking sites to communicate our messages and I am also aware that BJP used it extensively to spread the anti-Congress wave. But the decision on such strategies was left with the senior leaders to decide and implement, I could only suggest. We could have worked on a better online and offline media strategy, but as the youth wing we did not have sufficient time to plan our strategies.

TK:
We did have our presence on social networking sites, but not to the extent that was desirable and we could have worked harder on this strategy. Social networking sites and mobile interfaces are great tools of communication with the youth; though not everything communicated on the sites are true, some are exaggerated information, but a good tool of communication nevertheless. BJP systematically allured the youth online with their tall claims of good governance and leadership, which now is making some serious U-Turns for which some on the social networking sites have started to now target this same claimed good governance and strong leadership.

GC: Our investigations indicate that youth prefer to join the BJP; do you think it’s a syndrome of ‘be good with the new government’ or ‘youth like BJP good governance mantra’?

PC: Youth are not joining BJP out of love for BJP. You must understand that this victory in the recently concluded elections was not a BJP victory but an anti-Congress wave from which BJP benefited. Today BJP are alluring the youth with various schemes of jobs and favors or if that is not working then harassment since they are in power, so youth are left with no choice but to join them. I don’t think it has anything to do with good governance. I have now had youth come up to me saying that they now see the mistake they made in joining BJP, because they are seeing their true colors of the leaders and government.

TK: Are you sure the BJP numbers indicate so much youth members; you must recheck it because the BJP has a habit of exaggerating certain facts. I do not agree with the fact that youth are joining BJP because of good governance, I think in most cases it is the syndrome of ‘be good with the new government’ and with some BJP leaders especially the youth putting undue pressure on other youth about the consequences of not supporting BJP. There is no denying that there is a certain element of harassment to non-BJP youth and does who show allegiance to Congress or NCP. But the euphoria over BJP is slowly dying and the youth have realized their error and will join more secular parties because the youth of Goa are more secular in nature.

PS: All the claims of Congress and NCP that BJP is harassing or forcing youth to join the party is a absurd bordering on amusing. Youth have supported us prior to the election and continue to support us after our government coming to power.  I still reiterate it is our focused leadership and good governance that continue to attract more youth to the BJP.

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