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This is an essay that I had written for a competition back in April this year. Of course, much has changed in the political scenarios of the two countries. But the central theme remains valid – the youth have to participate in the political process in order to see results. Whether the participation should be through the system or not is a question that can’t be answered in a general way. Each country’s political system is unique, and the answer depends on the political system of the country in question. In India, the youth took to the streets along with Anna Hazare, and showed their power through mass demonstrations and protest. In the US, Ron Paul has built up a well-organized campaign that is based on the participation of the youth in the electoral process.

As scam after scam hit the Indian politico class like a tsunami, a frail and almost unknown old man, Anna Hazare, started a fast-unto-death in the hope of forcing the government to pass legislation to curb corruption. His fast would not have made news were it not for the solidarity of the youth of India and their firm resolve to curb the excessive losses from the public treasury due to graft. As more and more youngsters poured out of schools and colleges into the anti-corruption movement, Anna Hazare became a phenomenon and a household name. Corruption had always existed, but the overwhelming participation of the youth gave it a new voice, deafeningly louder and infinitely more intolerant of malpractices than ever.

However, the route that the Indians took was outside the electoral system and they showed that democracy could also be practiced by demonstrating the power of the people on the streets, although the Indian youth has a long tradition of participating in politics starting from their college times. Educational institutes like the Jawaharlal Nehru University and others were quite famous for the number of students who participated in college politics and then went on to become politicians in the national parties. Youth politics was also very prevalent in the States of Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, although they are by no means the only States. But now, there has been a marked difference in attitude. The youth have realized that all the parties are a collective sham, and what India needs is an active civil society, which regulates the corrupt tendencies of political parties. Suddenly, a lot of organizations mushroomed; all of them with an aim of fighting corruption.

In India, the system is quite broken and the youth have realized that the only way to change the system was to tweak it from without. Anyone who enters the sewage in order to clean it will himself be sucked in, or would be rendered powerless to do anything. However in the US, things have moved in the opposite direction. Although the system is equally broken there, the youth have understood that the only way to clean the sewage is to get in there and work within the system. Thus, the youth there actively started participating in politics to get the man they want into the White House.

The youth icon of the USA is the Republican Congressman Ron Paul. This 76-year old Libertarian-leaning politician has consistently stood by his principles and the Constitution, and his views on freedom and liberty are quite popular with the young voters. As part of the promotion of his ideas, he has organized small units of his Presidential campaign comprising of the local youth in every County, District and State. These people are zealous in their support of Ron Paul, and are very well-trained by the campaign managers.

Although so far Ron Paul has not won any primary or caucus, he has not dropped out of the race. This is because he knows the rules of the Republican primary quite well, and that you need to secure maximum delegates in order to win. And he is doing just that. Whether it is Romney or Santorum who wins the contest, Paul’s supporters swarm the conventions where the delegates are elected, and ensure that most of the delegates are Paulites. This strategy has been very successful, and Paul seems to be silently amassing a lot of delegates, although we would know for sure only by late June. If there is a brokered convention at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Ron Paul would definitely have the upper hand.

Thus, we see a glaring difference in the participation of the youth in politics and civil society in the two countries. We cannot, however, say for sure which method is better. All we can do for now is wait and watch as events unfold.