If asking questions is the best way to get involved in the democratic process, then, the youth may have already begun

The Lok Sabha elections 2014 might just be a watershed year marking the involvement of youngsters in the political process for the first time. 

No more armchair pronouncements on the state of the country, or indifference to the system — things have changed a lot this year.

A group of young professionals have come together, from across the country, simply to ‘ask how’.

In end-January, they launched AskHOW India, a campaign focused on encouraging positive political dialogue on National Issues, and their website, www.AskHOWIndia.org.

A core group of entrepreneurial professionals with over 120 years of combined experience in verticals spanning sectoral research, consulting, advertising and communications, is supporting the campaign by leveraging their unique skills.

AskHOW India was conceptualised by Yogesh Upadhyaya, a technology entrepreneur before he thought this up. He says, “After movies, cricket and religion, one subject which involves us all is politics. Unfortunately, the level of discussion here is not very intelligent because there is a lack of information about issues, and hence, personality and promises dominate. AskHOW hopes to catalyse a positive change in this status quo.”

A member of the team, Pramad Jandhyala, an entrepreneur herself, says the AskHOW website began by explaining basic, yet key concepts to the audience. “We began by writing about the water position in Delhi, about the time AAP made promises about water supply. And then we went on to tackle other issues,” she says.

Neat presentations, hosted on Slideshare, explain each issue; be it the safety of women in the country, why prices rise or even if we can have a better Parliament.

If asking questions is the best way to involve oneself in the democratic process, then perhaps, the youth of this nation have already begun.

Last week, a friend who runs a company in the city, disclosed his election plans for not just himself but also his entire team of 100 employees.

“I am paying for their air tickets so that they can go home to vote. I have also warned them the little dot in their finger would matter in their appraisals,” he said proudly, adding that discussions on national issues have now become common in his workplace.  Amidst the season of endless TV debates and campaign videos, with voting day just around the corner, attempts are being made to encourage employees to cast their votes in the general elections. Some offices have already announced a break of four hours ‘on duty’ to let employees exercise their franchise.

“We were also given a FAQs list with topics such as how to get registered, what forms to fill up and where to collect voter identity cards. Several reminders have also been sent,” said Shanmuga Priya of Unilever.

Experts say at least 500 new websites have been created in the past year to mobilise 120 million first-time voters.

“I started taking an interest in politics when I voted in the 2011 TN assembly elections,” said Nidhi Dasaprakashm, who started watching debates on TV, newspapers and has now moved on to online discussion forums and social media.

Traditional practices no longer hold good with the younger generation, says S. Ganeshan, who plans to go to the polling booth with his 19-year-old son, Suriya. “Children now are no longer voting like their parents. My son has entirely different views from mine. I am worried and impressed at the same time.”

 (Reporting by Ramya Kannan and Vasudha Venugopal)

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