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Prajatantra’s Groundbreaking Study Unveils the Best Methods to Enter into Indian Politics

Ritwick Shrivastav, Founder & CEO of Prajatantra
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Delhi, India

Launched just over last year, Prajatantra, a vanguard organization committed to fostering a more inclusive and representative democracy, has unveiled a pioneering study that delves into the intricate web of privilege, gatekeepers, and the pathways to political power in India. This comprehensive research, spanning three diverse states – Telangana, Chhattisgarh, and Punjab – highlights the often-opaque barriers that obstruct the entry of grassroots candidates and independent voices into the hallowed halls of governance.

Prajatantra, a non-profit and non-partisan organization established to encourage, educate, and empower governance-centric Indians to contest elections, has conducted this groundbreaking study to comprehensively understand the extent of gatekeeping in Indian politics, the various methods employed by Elected Representatives to enter the political arena, the relationship between family and financial backgrounds, and the age at which individuals embark on their political careers, among other pertinent aspects. With a steadfast commitment to empowering ordinary citizens, Prajatantra’s research aims to unravel the complexities that often impede the participation of ordinary citizens in shaping the nation’s political landscape.

The findings underscore the urgency of dismantling the gatekeepers that prevent deserving candidates from entering the political arena,” observes Ritwick Shrivastav, Founder & CEO of Prajatantra. “If we can incubate and provide a platform for grassroots leaders, there is a higher chance of bringing about real change in our governance system.”

Privilege and Gatekeepers
According to the study, 91.7% of MLA seats are occupied by gatekeepers (dynasts, criminals, or wealthy individuals). Among privileges, Money holds a significant influence (82.5%), followed by criminal backgrounds (48.7%) and dynast (20.2%). Women’s representation mirrors similar trends, with 47% from dynastic backgrounds. Alarmingly, Non-privileged/ grassroot politicians get 5 years disadvantage compared to privileged/grassroots politicians.

Method of Political Entry
Avenues for political entry primarily comprise Local politics (29.4%), Party organizational politics (26.4%), and family legacy (20.2%), constituting over 70% of entry paths. Meanwhile, only 4.3% of the people enter politics through student politics, which is further highly gatekept (over 85%) by criminals and wealthy politicians. Local and party organizational politics offer comparatively lower gatekeeping (39%) but demand substantial time (4-6 years) for state-level ascension.

First-Time MLAs
First-time MLAs largely emerge from privileged backgrounds (85%), with only 5.7% overcoming all entry barriers on their first attempt. Party organizational politics was the most favored among first-time elected representatives at 39.2%, followed by local politics at 21.7% and family legacy at 20%. Student politics and social service were 5.3% and 3.3%, respectively. Over the years, entering politics has become more challenging as the age of entry for first-time elected representatives increased by 2 years, with people entering politics at 46 instead of 44.

Demographics of Political Entry
Demographically, the study reveals that 32.5% lack a college degree, while 30.7% hold graduate degrees, favoring arts (46.5%), law (17.8%), and engineering (10.9%) qualifications. Moreover, the educational degree does not affect elected representatives’ chances of entering politics. A person with a Graduation degree and no degree enters politics at the same age of 44. Professionals, especially from business backgrounds (38%) and doctors (7%), are increasingly venturing into politics.

Details of the study and data are available at prajatantra.org.

Prajatantra’s study highlights the need for reforms and interventions to level the playing field where the organization’s mission comes into force. They drive this through a 3E approach: Encourage – celebrating self-made politicians and inspiring Indians to join electoral politics; Educate – educating aspirants about electoral processes, entry methods, and political strategies; Empower – providing aspirants with necessary tools, teams, and ecosystems to help them contest elections successfully.

 

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