As a significant step to strengthen youth participation in the democratic process, a parliamentary panel proposed lowering the minimum age for participation in general and parliamentary elections from 25 to 18. The recommendation is part of the 132nd Report on “Some Aspects of the Electoral Process and its Reforms” released by Parliament recently. The respected committee responsible for this report is the Departmental Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, which is headed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sushil Kumar Modi.
The objective of this recommendation is to enable greater participation of youth in decision making and governance. The Commission firmly believes that lowering the minimum age requirement to stand for election will provide equal opportunities to the youth to actively participate in shaping the future of the country.
To bolster its position, the panel points to evidence from global practices and growing political awareness among young people. The committee studied countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia and found that setting the minimum age for candidacy at 18 has proved successful. These countries have demonstrated that youth can be reliable and responsible political partners.
The report highlights that having young candidates in the political landscape can bridge the generation gap and foster better dialogue and cooperation. To prepare youth for this important role, the Commission recommends that the Election Commission and governments implement civic education programmes. The objective of the program is to equip young citizens with the knowledge and skills required for effective political participation.
The panel’s concerns about the lack of youth representation in the current political landscape are justified. According to a report by PRS Legislative Research, 47% of Lok Sabha MPs were above 55 years of age in 2019. Additionally, only 2.2% of Lok Sabha MPs are under the age of 30, a huge difference given the significant presence of the youth population.
As the country is witnessing a rise in the number of youth voters, the Congress Committee’s recommendation comes as a timely response to bridge the representation gap and harness the potential of the youth population. Once implemented, these reforms have the potential to bring new perspectives, innovative ideas and new energy into the decision-making process, which will ultimately shape a more inclusive and representative democracy for India.