A 27-year-old from Odisha’s Angul quit his job in a private company and has now thrown his hat in the ring for a sarpanch’s post. Sujit Mahallick, a graduate engineer, wanted to return to his roots and change what his predecessors promised but failed to deliver—upliftment of villages and the people who reside therein. Not far away, in Balasore, a second-year MBA student Pragyan Paramita Jena, all of 22, filed her nominations for the position of a zilla parishad member.
A fierce desire to fight corruption drove her because Jena believes that 90% of funds meant for community development are misappropriated and this must be stopped. Such examples of youngsters willing to risk or forego a career in the comforts of well-paying jobs are many in Odisha, which will witness three-tier rural polls next month. Come to think of it, that these 20-somethings are vying for space in the grassroots of Indian politics is a very welcome sign for our democracy. Not just the young generation, the diversity of people willing to test the waters in politics is far greater.
A former superintendent of police Ramesh Behera too has filed his papers for panchayat samiti member. So has Anjali Behera, who once served as minister of women and child development in the Naveen Patnaik government. After quitting the BJD, she joined the BJP and is not reluctant to go back to the most basic level to serve people as a samiti member.
In India, politics is often viewed with a sense of skepticism—and also contempt—by people from the middle class. Leave alone contesting, we don’t even turn out to vote and one look at the poor voting percentage in urban areas makes it abundantly clear that we choose to stay as much away from active politics as possible. That probably is the biggest irony of Indian politics: We watch people with compromised integrity take over the mantle and run the show but won’t do anything about it. More and more people from varied backgrounds coming into politics with a commitment to serve the people will change the political horizon for sure and that it is happening at the grassroots is very heartening. The pattern emerging from the panchayat polls in Odisha provides a ray of hope for the future.