Debutants’ ball: No less than 315 MPs are first-timers in this Lok Sabha
First-time MPsI don’t know. I have no clue why it happens.” That’s 33-year-old Anupriya Patel’s reply when asked what her advice to PrimeMinister Narendra Modi to curbinflation would be. The first-timeMP from Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh, has no pretensions of being a politician despite being Apna Dal founder Sone Lal Patel’s,First-time MPsI don’t know. I have no clue why it happens.” That’s 33-year-old Anupriya Patel’s reply when asked what her advice to PrimeMinister Narendra Modi to curbinflation would be. The first-timeMP from Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh, has no pretensions of being a politician despite being Apna Dal founder Sone Lal Patel’s daughter. Room no. 1401 at Delhi’s Ashok Hotel, where she is staying, is chock-a-block with supporters but that doesn’t stop Anupriya from admitting that she hates being surrounded by people 24×7. “If I become a minister tomorrow, this crowd will swell. I’ll have new-found relatives.” She also admires Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Mulayam Singh Yadav for his ability to remember every party worker’s name and face; this, despite regular tiffs with the government led by his son, Akhilesh Yadav.Apna Dal is a BJP ally but Anupriya says “these people are mad” when asked about Sangh Parivar affiliates Bajrang Dal and Sri Ram Sene. She even claims she is against arranged marriages and supports live-in relationships, even if she herself took the traditional route. The psychology graduate from Delhi’s Lady Shri Ram College, however, has her task cut out as an MP. “My two priorities are setting up a university and a super-specialty hospital. Then I want to provide housing, drinking water and sanitation to tribals in my constituency.”Fresh facesOne of the 315 MPs who have entered the Lok Sabha for the first time in 2014, Anupriya represents a new breed of politicians who are ambitious, goal-oriented and outspoken. From Congress’s Sushmita Dev, who admits to having used money, political patronage and muscle power for electoral success, to Nationalist Congress Party’s Mohammad Faizal, who rubbishes the perception that Modi is anti-Muslim, to Babul Supriyo, who dismisses politician’s white kurtapyjama as mere symbolism, the 16th Lok Sabha’s ‘freshers’ epitomise the young and restless India which believes in performance over posturing.”Today, people demand instant results,” says Lakshadweep MP Faizal, 38, who defeated Hamdullah Sayeed, son of veteran Congress leader P.M. Sayeed. Faizal, an MBA from Calicut University, is already working on a tourism promotion model aimed at generating employment in the 11 islands and plans to invite Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Lakshadweep to showcase its potential.advertisementFor Nizamnagar MP Kalvakuntla Kavitha, 36, daughter of Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) chief K. Chandrasekhar Rao, representing a newborn state brings with it immense responsibility. During campaigning, she had released a personal manifesto for her constituency apart from the party manifesto. “I have to deliver everything I promised,” says the BTech graduate from Hyderabad’s Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University.Daughter of Assam Congress veteran Santosh Mohan Dev, Sushmita, 41, considers politics to be a means and not an end. “I will leave politics the day I feel I have failed in my job,” says the lawyer-turned politician, an alumnus of Miranda House in Delhi.Nearly half of the 60 newcomers under 40 belong to political families. But they aren’t ready to accept that fact as the primary catalyst for their success. “Political patronage perhaps helps in getting a ticket but to earn votes, you must work at the grassroots. I visited all 436 villages in my constituency while others could not touch even 200,” says Dushyant Chautala, 26, the youngest-ever Lok Sabha member.Dynasty never diesThe Indian National Lok Dal MP from Hisar, who is the grandson of former Haryana chief minister Om Prakash Chautala, has scripted a family revival of sorts with his win after his father Ajay Singh Chautala and grandfather were jailed last year on corruption charges. Dushyant points to the other MP from his party, Charanjeet Singh, who won from Sirsa, as an example of a rank outsider making it big in polls. “He doesn’t have a political background. He joined politics at 21 and worked his way up to become an MP at 36.” He finds support from TRS MP from Peddapalli, Suman Balka, 31, an Osmania University student, who was part of the long agitation for the creation of Telangana. “If you work for a cause, opportunities will come your way. I got a ticket for my commitment to the people,” says Balka, who ticked off a security guard in Parliament for asking if he belonged to Andhra Pradesh. “It’s Telangana.”Young bloodAnother dynast, Chirag Paswan, 32, son of Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) chief Ram Vilas Paswan, believes political patronage can at times be a liability. “There are several instances of those with money and patronage being pushed into oblivion,” he says. The BTech dropout decided to join politics in 2011 after seeing immigrants from Bihar “being subjected to humiliation” in Mumbai, where he attempted- without much success-a foray into Bollywood as an actor. He is seen as one of the prime movers behind LJP’s coup in stitching an alliance with BJP and winning all the six Lok Sabha seats it contested-including Jamui, where Chirag defeated Speaker of the Bihar Assembly, Udai Narain Choudhary. BJP’s Nandurbar MP Heena Gavit, 26, a medical student who sat for her MD exams after the polls, says that being the daughter of Vijaykumar Gavit, who represented the constituency four times, certainly helped, but intent, a willingness to work for the poor and dedication were key to her success in unseating ninetime Congress MP Manikrao Gavit by a margin of over 1 lakh votes.Outsiders get a look-inadvertisementOlympic gold medallist shooter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, 44, feels joining politics was a natural progression from his military and sports background. The BJP Lok Sabha MP from Jaipur Rural says it’s important for good people to join the nation’s decision-making process. “If we don’t occupy them, others will.” Like Rathore, Priyanka Singh Rawat, who has an MA in political science from Rohilkhand University, Uttar Pradesh, entered politics because she believes educated people can serve society more responsibly and with greater impact. “I always wanted to do something for the country and realised politics is the best platform,” says the 28-year-old BJP MP who beat Congress stalwart P.L. Punia by a margin of more than 2 lakh votes in Barabanki, Uttar Pradesh.Betting on a new startDr. Dharam Vira Gandhi, 62, one of the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) four winning candidates from Punjab, attributes his success to the ability to connect with people. Of three-time MP Preneet Kaur, Union minister in the UPA regime, the Patiala physician says, “She failed to calculate the impact of my ground-level connect with people over the past decade.” Gandhi happily waives his consultation fee for the scores of brick kiln workers and hand-to-mouth farm labourers who queue up each day outside his modest clinic in Sukh Enclave, not far from Kaur’s plush address, the Moti Bagh Palace. He plans to keep working at the Gandhi Heart Clinic: “Parliament works for a maximum of three months each year. The rest will be for my patients and the people.”Most of the newcomers, cutting across party lines, feel that corruption cannot be weeded out by mere legislation. Several even blame the system for forcing politicians to turn corrupt. “The change must come from people and not politicians,” says Sushmita. Dushyant recounts how every village today demands money from politicians to hold various sports tournaments.Kavitha, however, believes that politicians have to play a bigger role in rooting out corruption. “We (TRS) don’t want our state to get into what India as a nation has been suffering for so many years. We as leaders have the responsibility to play the role of watchdogs,” says Kavitha. Sociologist Dipankar Gupta says AAP, despite its poor show at the hustings, has provided and model and structure for good people to join and succeed in politics. “AAP’s success was inspiring. The voter must support a candidate who promises development instead of one who offers free alcohol,” agrees Sushmita.advertisementBJP’s Karnataka MPs, Bhagavanta Khuba, 47, and Pratap Simha, 37, feel their victories represent the change Sushmita wants-both won without big money or political muscle. Now, they hope for a change in the culture of political parties. “Parties operate like the mafia. Most are fiercely clannish. As a result, even the brightest aspirants are kept out of politics,” says Simha, who has a master’s in journalism from Mangalore University.Leading from the frontThe new brigade is determined not to repeat the terrible performance of MPs in the 15th Lok Sabha: Over 74 bills were left pending as the House spent only 13 per cent of the allotted time in legislation, Parliament’s primary mandate. They also hope that uproarious scenes-from members coming to blows to pepper spray being brandished-which typified parliamentary proceedings in recent times are a thing of the past. “It will be our collective responsibility to see that such things don’t happen. We are here to discuss, debate and get our job done,” says Bollywood singer Babul Supriyo, 44, who secured on a BJP ticket from Asansol in West Bengal.Dushyant believes that unlike the last Lok Sabha, it’s not a divided house, so the Government will not face much trouble in passing legislation. “The challenge for the Government is to get the Opposition’s voice heard in the Lok Sabha and ensure bills are not stalled in Rajya Sabha.”Dipankar Gupta plays down the surfeit of young parliamentarians, pointing out that the 1980s saw resurgence of leaders such as Chandra Sekhar but there were no dramatic change to Indian politics. Gupta feels that the performance of first-time MPs, irrespective of party affiliation, will depend on the leadership of Prime Minister Modi. “He must bring in the changes as he has a clear and decisive mandate. The younger politicians will certainly follow. I see no reason why that can not happen,” he says. “I don’t have much hope from those who come from political families. But the selfmade are often the most hard-working.Moreover, MPs from regional parties, despite their language barrier, try to articulate their views more often in Parliament than those from national parties,” says Nani Gopal Mahanta, who teaches political science at Gauhati University.Whether or not these ‘freshers’ usher in a new era in Parliament, what India wants is less talk, more action. “I don’t want to give a bhashan (lecture) on something I don’t know. I would rather focus on something I can do,” says Kavitha, as if on cue. She should. The nation will be watching.Followthe writer on Twitter @KDscribeWith inputs from Santosh Kumar, Asit Jolly, Rajeev P.I., M.G. Arun, Amitabh Srivastava To read more, get your copy of India Today here.