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Friday, July 15, 2011

UPA Government: Ring in the new, India; a young country with an old cabinet!

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Friday , July 15, 2011 at 00 : 09 /
Rajdeep Sardesai
If politics were to mirror celluloid, then clearly our netas seem out of step. A fortnight ago, two Hindi films were released: 'Budha Hoga Tera Baap' and 'Delhi Belly'. The first had the legendary Amitabh Bachchan trying to recreate the magic of the 1970s; the second was a multiplex movie with young actors designed for the MTV generation. Trade figures suggest that 'Delhi Belly' in its first week grossed twice as much as the Amitabh starrer. The main reason seems to be the demographic dividend: for a country where 60 per cent of the population was born after the original Amitabh hit 'Zanjeer', 'Delhi Belly' with its irreverent, almost blasphemous humour, has struck a chord with young India. Crude and crass it may be, but DK Bose is clearly the flavour of the season.
By contrast, the cabinet reshuffle (or political kho-kho as suggested by former Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh) which took place this week appeared to embody an older India. The average age of the cabinet ministers after the reshuffle is 65 years while 60 is the average age of UPA 2's Council of Ministers. While 14 cabinet ministers, including the prime minister, are in their 70s, just one - Kumari Selja - is in her 40s. A majority were born before India got independence in 1947. The average age of the ministers of state - normally considered a nursery for 'young' politicians -- is a rather 'seniorish' 54 years.
Of the three ministers of state under 35, all of them - Sachin Pilot, Agatha Sangma and Milind Deora - are the dutiful children of influential politicians. It would be fair to assume that had they not been blessed with a political surname, their chances of being made ministers would be dim. In any case, being a minister of state in an elephantine cabinet is more ceremonial than substantive. All this in an era where a 45-year-old David Cameron is shaping the face of Britain, while a 50-year-old Barack Obama is poised for re-election in the US.

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