Wading Indian Politics as Gen-Z

Dec 2, 2022

How do you define a whole generation? A few catchy phrases can never capture the collective identities of trillions of people, but the common living experiences one goes through are a good way to start.

Generation Z is the demographic group succeeding millennials. Born from the mid-1990s to the early 2010s, Gen-Z is differentiated by its “unique formative experiences,” which include technological developments and socio-economic trends, along with the widespread availability of wireless internet, cellular services, and global political/social turmoil.

The presence of Gen-Z, however, reverberates most widely in the political sphere, where their voices and demands are slowly garnering more attention. There is a greater sense of connectivity present in us — the tendency to think about everyone and everything.

Though there has been increased youth participation in recent years into Indian politics and current affairs, we’re lagging behind our Western Counterparts, not due to apathy or disinterest but due to the systematic barriers that the youth faces in Indian politics. This article details these barriers and why it is dire we work towards dismantling them.

Political Uncertainty

A national survey held in 2016 showed us that the highest priority for 33% of the Indian youth is in having a permanent job, even if it means drawing a little less salary. Even though 65% of India’s Gen-Z has shown interest in holding a government-issued job, they’re less enthused by holding any political office or contesting elections. This statistic clearly shows the aversion to politics: there’s next to no job security in this field.

Moreover, nepotism has transcended bollywood and found its way into Indian politics. From the Nehru-Gandhi clan that gave India 3 Prime Ministers to Farooq Abdullah and his son, Omar Abdullah — it has become apparent that politics has become dynastic. Because of this, there’s uncertainty amongst the young about whether they could make it in the field. Even Entrepreneur Magazine’s top 5 young politicians announced in 2019 were a glaring example of nepotism. New young leaders like AAP’s Raghav Chaddha or CPI’s Kanhaiya Kumar are breaking these stereotypes, but they’re far less in number. For many of us, dynastic politics makes us stop and wonder, “Is politics really worth all the effort?”

Parental Apprehension

Indians prioritize family values. With 65% of Indian youth preferring to stay with their family than move away, it’s obvious that parental apprehension affects political decisions too. The biggest concern might be safety. A survey found out that more than half of the Indian youth (53%) feels that people have become less tolerant about listening to others views. Only a few months ago, university students across India came out protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), and faced nothing more than curfews, internet shutdowns, police brutality, and online bullying. The condition was perhaps the worst at Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Mila University, simply because of the communal nature of these protests. Labels of ‘anti-nationals’ and continuous trolling on social media have created an idea in the minds of families that politics is violent, chaotic, and unsafe. An aversion to politics exists even when 51% of India’s youth has expressed interest in it. Thus, it’s apparent that rather than ignorance, it is the current political instability that concerns Gen-Z youth and their parents.

Politicians’ Influence

The representatives of any field have a huge impact on how people see that job. Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs revolutionized the way people perceive working in technology- they took it from the stereotypes of a ‘nerd playing video games in their room’ to an ingenuous person who deserves to be viewed as a revolutionary.

Indian politics is the exact opposite. There is no face-saving. Indian politicians are known for saying some of the most outrageous things- rather than a profession to be respected, it has become something to joke about.These aren’t demeaning assumptions. It’s understandable that hard work, hours of strategizing, and decision-making is done by policy-makers. Yet at the end of the day, the limelight is taken away by popular leaders making incredulous statements. For youth who aren’t involved in politics, their only interaction with political news is when a politician does or says something appalling.

There is also a belief that talent is not appreciated in Indian politics. It’s seen as a loud, corrupt, and boisterous profession. Bollywood has cemented this stereotype by showing corrupt leaders working above the law, making people believe that politicians aren’t really smart, just very popular. This may be true to a certain extent, but there’s more complexity involved. Even if a politician is well-liked, there are several people working with them that are creative and educated. But to a generation that already values academia over other activities, politics seems like a wasted opportunity.

Absence of a “Real” Incentive

The biggest reason why a lot of Gen-Z youth doesn’t want to get involved in politics is perhaps because they feel that they don’t need to. First of all, most of these children grew up in times of fast economic growth and very minimal political movements (other than CAA protests, Demonetisation, and GST). They rarely witnessed a huge political event in their lifetime, unlike their parents or grandparents who grew up during the British-Raj, the Partition, Wars (Indo-Pak, Indo-Sino, etc), or other global events (like the World Wars, Arab Spring, or Great Depression). The most exposure a lot of us have had is simply through history books. Consequently, this generation hasn’t fully realized what role politics and activism play in shaping the world. To add more to this disinterest, a lot of students were taught political science classes through dispassionate teachers, in a system that encouraged rote-learning the number of seats in Lok-Sabha rather than understanding its workings. Student councils were nothing more than a name-sake, nor did they work on the principles of democracy. Humanities students were discouraged, while science students gained attention just for their subjects. There are students who don’t know anything about student unions or activism, since the focus of the system shifted to clearing exams and living a “simple” life.

There’s also a class angle to this problem. A lot of times, economically well-off students or students from upper-caste/historically privileged communities don’t see a need for getting involved in politics. The simple reason is that there’s an unwritten surety that the interests of the majority, of the privileged can never be forgotten — and it is true to a large extent.

It’s important for marginalized youth to get involved because a lot of their liberties and opportunities depend on it. But for those who can access it, politics just looks like a muddle they don’t need to cross.


Bureaucratic and institutional barriers aren’t the only limitations to youth political participation — dynastic politics, no job security, parental pressures, safety issues, bad public image, an absence of incentives, and inadequate political education also play a significant role. Now, it’s easy to disregard all of these reasons. After all, if the youth have no reason to get involved in politics then why would the politicians have an incentive to get them involved, right? Wrong.

Here are just some of the reasons politicians need more of Gen-Z in politics:

First and foremost, it’s obvious that older politicians have a hegemony in India’s politics. Their policies, however, affect us and our future. Yet, major decisions are being made by people who don’t share the same living experiences as us. It’s a scary thought that our future is decided without consulting us. It’s a moral obligation that politicians have to not just involve people right now, but to involve citizens of the future to make policies that help everyone. Thus, it’s necessary for them to have a young person’s perspective when they make decisions about their future. Just like policies on reproductive health can’t be made without women and changes to trading policy without businessmen, politics needs more Gen Z-ers.

The second question is that of technological developments. The world is fast-changing and new technologies are coming out every day. It’s highly unlikely that a politician’s knowledge of cryptocurrency, blockchains, or AI reaches far enough to be considered ‘competent’ to frame policies on them. In the future, people could get out of paying taxes by keeping their money digitized, use AI technology in unethical means, and exploit loopholes. These policies of the future need to be made by people who are aware of these developments. Since the youth would better understand other young people, the best way to improve this newer generation would be through politics to get to development.

We’re already seeing how civic engagement around the world from young people is affecting their country’s policies. In the US, students like Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg are outspoken against gun violence and have organized several national demonstrations. Nadya Okamoto along with other health activists has effectively removed the ‘period tax’ from several states and is working relentlessly to remove period poverty. These issues aren’t new — but the approach is. And it shows how young people have the potential to make changes and bring limelight to issues. The only question is, when will India’s Gen-Z realize this privilege?

The biggest disadvantage for India’s Gen-Z is perhaps our limited identity. We’re still fighting the systems — trying to get more marks, trying to get better jobs than our peers. We’re competing and fighting with each other, instead of questioning the institutes that make us fight for these resources — we’re quick to point out reservations, but we rarely question why we have a system that creates a need for them.

I agree that to a large extent, it’s our education and prevailing politics that stop us from getting involved in politics. But some of the blame is still on us. We’re a strange mix of conservative-liberals: we don’t hate people on their religion but we don’t challenge the bigotry of our parents, we understand the caste system but reject reservation, we don’t want people to face injustice but we also shy away from helping them get justice. What we need to do is break that hesitation. There’s a popular phrase in between change-makers now: if everybody doesn’t get a seat at the table, we will disrupt the table.

Innovation has been embraced by our generation. Our generation is arguably the most plugged-in, politically unconventional, and technologically literate group ever. We pick policy issues and our positions on them, not because they conform to party-leanings or our ideologies, but because we think it’s the right course of action. This is the kind of support politicians need right now. A lot of times, we see seemingly helpful and important bills not get passed simply because the person leading it lacked party support. That trait of hard party-support is less in youth, which will make governance much easier.

This is what we need to come in terms with. As a proud member of Gen-Z myself, I need everyone to understand that the only way we disrupt the system that makes us fight each other is finally being a part of it. To change this system, these policies, the uncertainties of the job markets, and the ineffective education system — we need to learn more about our politics, stop letting the myths affect us, and become an active part of it.

If the system is working against us, it’s up to us to change the system.

The objective of a ‘Think Article’ is to bring knowledge about policies in the sphere, in context to the youth of India and, if possible, influencing the policy process. The article has no motivation to pass any political judgments.


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