April 30, 2024


Should the age to contest elections in India be lowered?

As India continues to head to the polls over the next month, an interesting exercise would be to see the median age of all candidates in the fray. While it might be a trivial thing, the topic of age crops up during election time to mainly talk about youngsters voting or not voting for candidates decades older than them.

There’s an obvious generational gap. While politics might not be the most popular career path for youngsters, what’s the right age to enter the arena? The current age limit is 25. Would lowering that number make any material difference? Would it lead to better quality candidates winning? Would it lead to more issues being on the table? Or is it just the right age for someone to contest elections?


In 2010, the Supreme Court heard a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that asked, why not lower the age limit to contest Lok Sabha and Assembly elections to 21 when the voting age was reduced to 18 from 21. That happened in 1988, thanks to the 61st Amendment Act of the Constitution. In the 1951-52 Lok Sabha elections, the eligible voting age was 21.

Back to the PIL, the bench countered by asking, “What’s the hurry?” Counsel for the petitioner said that people had the fundamental right to choose a profession, and politics had become one. The court obviously doesn’t have the power to do this. It can only be done through constitutional amendments. The PIL was ultimately dismissed.

Last year, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice proposed reducing the minimum age to contest elections to 18. The committee’s report said the Election Commission of India (ECI) had considered the issue of aligning the age to contest elections with the minimum voting age but was against it.

In December 2022, RLD Chief and Rajya Sabha MP Jayant Chaudhary tabled a Private Member’s Bill demanding the age limit be lowered to 21 years. He argued that the country’s youngsters actively engaged in the electoral process by voting. So why not have them be part of the process by contesting?

What’s it like in other countries? In 2003, the UK’s Election Commission issued a consultation paper that addressed this topic. In 2006, the UK parliament lowered the age limit to 18. It’s the same in Japan, Australia, France, Denmark, and Austria. In the US, you’ve got to be 25 years old to be a candidate for the House of Representatives and 30 years for a US Senator.

Given how other countries have evolved, is it high time India followed suit?

VIEW: It’s a good idea

Democracies get the governments they deserve. It’s only fair for the government to be representative of the people it represents. Just like how lowering the voting age ensured young people had a say in India’s democracy, they should be given the chance to participate by being in the arena themselves. If they’re mature enough to decide who to vote for and why they made that choice, they can and should be allowed to contest.

India is a relatively young democracy. We’ve also got 50% of the population below the age of 25. We’ve come a long way since the constitution was drafted decades ago when India’s literacy levels were much lower. Student leaders have slowly but surely come to the fore since. Many were even imprisoned during the Emergency. Many leaders in present-day politics got their start in student-led movements.

The average age of India’s MPs is nearly 60. They represent a populace in which half the constituents are below 25. That’s a clear generation gap. If a 22 or 23-year-old contests an election, presents good ideas and is voted into power by the people, who are we to judge? The risks of voting for someone below 25 are essentially the same as voting for someone in their 50s or 60s.

COUNTERVIEW: It’s a bad idea

The ECI has been adamant and steadfast about this issue. Its response to the Parliamentary Panel report was that 25 is the right age for someone to contest the polls, and there doesn’t need to be parity with the voting age. Maturity is the big reason why. Politics is a complex and often brutal space. A 25-year-old, more likely than not, has the maturity to be in that arena and withstand everything that comes with it.

If we’re going to compare other countries, while some have lowered the age to 18, others still have a higher limit than India. You can’t be 18 to enter politics in the US, especially at the national level. Also, a higher age limit increases the probability that the person has some professional experience under their belt.

The ECI, in its response to the Parliamentary Panel, cited Ambedkar’s view that only people with some degree of higher qualification and practical experience should serve the Legislature. That’s because it’s entrusted with the crucial role of laying down policies and initiatives and enacting laws that affect large swaths of the population. Given the stakes, this shouldn’t be an entry-level job.

Reference Links:

  • Change age limit for MP and MLA election to 21, says PIL – Times of India
  • Lok Sabha polls: Did you know 18 was not always the minimum age for voting in India? – Moneycontrol
  • Parliamentary panel suggests reducing of age to contest Lok Sabha, assembly polls – Deccan Herald
  • Do we need to be 25 years old to contest elections? Parliament should change that! – The Better India
  • Why India Should Reduce the Minimum Age for Entering Parliament – The Wire
  • Can Lowering Age Be A Gamechanger In State Polls? – NDTV
  • Is 18 old enough to vote but too young to contest polls? Election Commission thinks so – The Print

What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)

a) The age to contest elections in India should be lowered.

b) The age to contest elections in India shouldn’t be lowered.


For the Right:

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For the Left:

Why political parties need to start talking about ‘Hindu economics’