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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Youth in Politics !!

This is a post on Murmu, the name would strike a bell, our Hon’ble President but this is on another Murmu !

Respected Droupadi Murmu is our current President of India.  She was a   teacher and is now the 15th and current President of India since 2022. She won the 2022 presidential election as a candidate of the Bharatiya Janata Party.  She is also the youngest person to occupy the post and the first President born in an independent India. Previously, she served as the 8th Governor of Jharkhand from 2015 to 2021, being the longest serving Governor for that state.   She was a member of the Odisha Legislative Assembly from Rairangpur Assembly constituency from 2000 to 2009, and was Minister of State (Independent Charge), Government of Odisha. She married Shyam Charan Murmu.

This post on Chandrani Murmu !  ~    elected to the Lok Sabha, from Keonjhar, Odisha in the 2019 Indian general election as a member of the Biju Janata Dal. Chandrani Murmu is currently the youngest Indian Member of Parliament in the 17th Lok Sabha. Murmu won against BJP's Ananta Nayak, who has previously won twice, by a margin of 66,203 votes. She succeeded Sakuntala Laguri to win the election from Keonjhar for the BJD once again. The youngest MP in the 16th Lok Sabha was Dushyant Chautala representing the Indian National Lok Dal from Hisar in Haryana.

Away in the globe, Hanah Lahe is just 24 but she is already a leading voice for change in the former Soviet Baltic state.

Hanah Lahe can’t remember the fall of the iron curtain. Estonia’s youngest MP grew up surfing the web and consuming American television. Just nine years before her birth, it was all so different. When borders reopened after the end of Soviet rule in 1991, Estonians rushed to stare at bananas, enthralled by the arrival of this new, exotic fruit. “People were standing in line sometimes not even to buy, but just to have a look at them. Those who would buy them would not even eat them because it was such a big thing,” says Lahe, 24, recounting a story her grandmother told her. “When a plastic bag from another country that had a big brand name arrived, people would use it all the time.”

Freedom, after half a century of Soviet occupation, held no immediate assurances. Criminal gangs were known to wander around Tallinn in the turbulent years of the early 1990s. Foreign visitors were relatively few and far between. Finnish tourists, allowed to cross the Soviet Union’s sea border, recall seeing ramshackle houses and children in rags roaming the streets of Tallinn.

It has been nearly a year since Lahe, representing the liberal Reform party of the prime minister, Kaja Kallas, was elected an MP, and in that time she has emerged as one of the Baltic country’s most outspoken, energetic and interesting politicians.  She landed her first big victory within months of her election, at just 23, when she led the fight to legislate marriage equality. Estonia went on to become the first ex-Soviet country to legalise same-sex marriage, a groundbreaking piece of legislation that came into effect in January 2024.

Lahe is now challenging other status-quos. The climate crisis remains a muted topic in Estonia, largely thanks to a deep-rooted car-loving culture at odds with Tallinn’s much-lauded free public transportation for residents. Cars remain something of a status symbol for new wealth and Estonia has the EU’s second-highest share of cars older than 20 years. Lahe, a former youth delegate at Cop27 in Egypt and a founder of a circular economy support group in Estonia’s parliament, still sees herself as an activist taking on mainstream attitudes and “big egos”. She refuses to own a car, instead using public transport or walking.

Lahe and like-minded Estonians have their work cut out if the Baltic state is to make real progress on the climate. The country remains an outlier in the EU, with no climate-based laws, though the government – a coalition led by Reform with Estonia 200, a new liberal party, and the Social Democrats as junior partners – is drafting a climate bill that could be pushed through this year. A new car tax is to come into force in 2025, despite public opposition. The reforms could raise an extra €120m a year.

Despite her relative inexperience, Lahe understands the importance of communication. Like Kallas she understands social media, but while the prime minister posts behind-the-scenes footage of her day-to-day duties on Instagram, Lahe goes a step further, using social media as a tool to gain traction on protests.  In June, she set up a temporary garden space outside Estonia’s parliament in protest over the large number of empty “asphalt heat island” spaces devoted to parked cars. Her pop-up went viral and caught the wider public’s attention. The prime minister even dropped by. Fierce climate opponents couldn’t resist having a look.

The other crisis on Lahe’s mind – like all politicians in the Baltics – is Russia’s war on Ukraine. “My generation’s heart aches for Ukraine, not because we lived through a war, but because we have the negative imprint of Russian invasion from our heritage. It matters to everyone who is Estonian how things are going in Ukraine,” says Lahe. She is clear: Ukrainian victory is the only path to securing Europe: “There really isn’t any other option.”

Domestically, battles lie ahead for Lahe, who as a young person in politics feels she has to prove herself “more than a regular politician”, particular since she chooses to go against many of her country’s cultural norms   

Back home in India, Chandrani Murmu was born on 16 June 1993 to Sanjiv Murmu, a government employee and Urbashi Soren, daughter of former MP Hariharan Soren (who won from Keonjhar on behalf of the Congress in 1980 and 1984). Murmu completed her degree in Mechanical Engineering from Siksha 'O' Anusandhan University, Bhubaneswar, in 2017.  

As the functioning of Parliament shifted to the new building, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modiji  mentioned the oldest member of Lok Sabha - 93 years old Samajwadi Party MP Shafiqur Rahman Barq - and the youngest - 30 years old Chandrani Murmu of Biju Janata Dal (BJD) - who became an MP at the age of 25.    

Young minds do bring in lot of fresh ideas !

With regards – S Sampathkumar

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