BENGALURU: On a Tuesday morning, over 10 youngsters are seated on chappe's (floormats) at a studio on Church Street to understand the nuances of the political process ahead of the Karnataka assembly elections. Students as young as 17 have voluntarily signed up for the Political Action Internship, organised by Dialogue India, a not-for-profit student-run organisation along with Bengaluru Need You, a platform for social initiatives on civic issues.
The internship which began last week covers lectures by prominent political leaders and subject-matter experts, as well as field work where participants accompany candidates to file their nominations, door-to-door campaigning, analysing constituencies, researching political trends, pre-poll analyses and social media campaigning.
"I’m interested in understanding how policies translate into politics. We are more exposed to national politics. Here, we have a chance to look at regional politics in-depth," says Yusuf Khalid, a third-year engineering student at BMS College of Engineering, adding, "We’re also looking at each party’s manifesto and the media narrative."
Earlier this week, he and other participants went along with AAP candidate Renuka Vishwanathan (from Shantinagar) and independent candidate from Jayanagar, Ravi Krishna Reddy, to get a first-hand idea about ground realities. While Yusuf has signed on for the programme out of interest, law student Nisha Harish feels that it is in-line with her course.
"It gives me a practical understanding of what I am learning in the classroom. For instance, I got to see how candidates campaign and how empathetic or proactive the citizens are towards the candidates. I am looking forward specifically understanding the history, demographics and how media portrays the candidates and parties," says Nisha, a first-year law student from Christ University.
The reason for this internship, Nandan Mandayam points out, is to rid the disenchantment, youngsters in particular, have with politics. "Somehow the word politics itself is look at, as a bad word. And here, we’re attempting to change that," says Nandan, one of the facilitators of the internship. At the same time, they are hoping to create some basic awareness on local leaders. "Many are just clueless about their local MLA and ward details," he says.
Some like former advertising professional Ravi Prasad are looking at a career in politics. After seven years in the corporate world, Ravi feels there’s nothing more to it. "I want to add value to other people’s lives. And I see that I can do that only through politics," says Ravi, who plans to go back to his home state, Bihar, to plunge into a career in politics. "Back home, the first issues that need to be looked into are education and healthcare. I voluntarily went to a government hospital where the restrooms were pathetic. Someone has to take charge of the situation," he says, explaining that his internship will give him a plan of action.
While the initial plan was to have a screening process to ensure the participants were only those with a keen interest in politics, Nandan says that they later decided to do away with the idea and keep it open to anyone across all age-groups. For those who can’t make it to the sessions, they are streaming it live on Facebook.