On a casual look, one may tend to regard the book, Vote of Confidence, as one of tales of young politicians hailing from families of established political leaders. But, the book throws up surprises. Not merely because it has included persons without a political background but also because it has sought to provide an objective account of the persons that the author Aashti Bhartia has chosen to cover. A wide range of persons — from Akhilesh Yadav to Ghanshyam Anuragi to Meenakshi Natarajan to Manick Tagore to Jitin Prasada to Anurag Thakur — has been included in the book. Various regions in the country have been covered, though the omission of northeast is conspicuous.
Other than the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav who was Kannuaj MP till recently, the book actually talks about 15 serving Lok Sabha MPs — their background, work and plans. The broad brief given to the author was that she should cover those MPs who were under 40, understandably at the time of their election in 2009. Nine of the 16 MPs (including Mr Yadav) are, to quote the author, “hereditary politicians” or symbols of political dynasties. For the right reasons, the book begins with an account of Akhilesh Yadav, the main architect of Samajwadi Party’s success in the 2012 assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. It does talk about how the young leader began, even in 2010, the selection of candidates for the 2012 elections. With an intelligent use of technology and slogans and aided by a group of smart friends, Yadav ensured the exit of “Behenji” Mayawati from power in the assembly polls. But, what is missing is any reference to his performance in Parliament. The book does not throw any light about Yadav, as a parliamentarian, even though he was MP for over 10 years.
In fact, this aspect, more or less, holds good for other MPs too. It is an irony that politicians of this country, who spend enormous resources to get elected to the legislature, generally pay little attention to doing constructive work in Parliament. The tale of Anuragi is quite interesting and even, revealing, given the fact that he rose from the grassroots, that too in an extremely backward region such as Bundelkhand. Again, what one does not get to know is how he sustains himself when he has no vocation to pursue.
Ms. Natarajan, as portrayed by the author, comes across as a serious and somewhat, refreshing politician. Unlike many of her young party colleagues, she has no political background. The author has made an exception to her brief, by including Ajoy Kumar, who was 47 at the time of his election from Jamshedpur constituency in Jharkhand. The reason, according to Ms Bharti, is that the story of Mr Kumar, a former police officer and business executive, is incredible. The MP, while in police service, had come down heavily on mafia gangs in Jamshedpur when he was Superintendent of Police. So, the story looks good except where the author states that the Tata group, which had benefitted so much from his work, snapped him up and made him a general manager after he quit the police service. Is it not a case of breach of propriety? The book offers no clue.
The author, even while noting the positive aspects of the young politicians, has thoughtfully captured how they do not come out strongly, when it comes to inconvenient issues. For instance, Deepender Singh Hooda, son of Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Rohtak MP, is ambivalent on his position on “Khap panchayats,” councils of older persons who issue decrees to their community members on matters such as marriage. Likewise, he has nothing to comment on the Mirchpur violence against Scheduled Castes a few years ago. There are misprints and factual inaccuracies in the book. Nathu Ram Mirdha, grandfather of the younger Hooda’s wife, has been identified as the Jat politician from Haryana. But, Mirdha was from Rajasthan and in the 1977 Lok Sabha elections, he was one of the few Congress leaders in the north who emerged victorious.
The book could have accommodated some more young women such as Agatha Sangma from Meghalaya or Jyoti Mirdha from Rajasthan [about whom passing references have been made as she is the sister in law of the younger Hooda] or Kruparani Killi, a medical practioner-cum-Srikakulam MP from Andhra Pradesh, who was not yet 40 when she became MP in 2009. In essence, this book provides a compelling profile of some of the country’s young politicians.