Thirty-two year old Bharati Janartha, a techie by profession, took a break from her civil service exam preparations to take a plunge into the electoral battlefield recently. Though a political novice, she managed to strike a chord with her electorate and was chosen from the Tikkar ward in Shimla.
Bharati is among the hundreds of young newly-elected Zilla Panchayat members in Himachal Pradesh who have assumed the sobriquet of ‘Himachal Pradesh’s Young Brigade’. Pursuing promising careers and most of them with no political background, they decided to take the plunge and come out as winners.
The statistics say how Himachalis have reposed their faith in young blood. According to the State Election Commission data, 72 per cent of the winners in the recently held Zilla Panchayat polls are in the age group of 20 to 24. Almost 92 per cent of the winners are below 50 years. Over 40,000 contestants including women were in the age group of 20-30 and around 44,642 in the age group of 31-40.
The pattern seems indicative of a massive shift in voter preference and a reliance on youngsters. “The voters feel the young can give a push to the system. I have no promises to make. All I tell my voters is that we will try to bring about a system which ensures grievance redressal effectively," says a jubilant Bharati.
Another young Turk, Kaushal Mungta at the age of 24 decided to contest from the Saraswatinagar ward in Shimla. A lawyer by profession, this was his first election as a candidate. “The people of this area have known me because I have been working for them and they realise that I am just one among them,” he said. He said that he had the legal knowledge to his advantage and hoped that it would help him to fight out the cause for the people of his area.
The reasons for their victory could be as much as 22-year-old Vanika Chobiyal, one of the youngest who contested and won from Udaipur ward of Chamba district puts it simply. “The others who were in the fray had contested earlier too and like others I did not promise to do the impossible, so maybe I sounded believable for the voters and they wanted to give me a chance,” Vanika said. These elected members are now hoping that they would encourage more youngsters to jump into the fray and bring in the much needed difference at the grass root level.