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The year 2004 has, as some people would say, been “fully loaded”. Political events of seismic consequences were scheduled and they did indeed take place. We at Young India anticipated the historical significance of the political happenings this year and have written about and organized events to understand two of them - Indian Parliamentary Elections and the U.S. Presidential Election.

In the fall of 2003, Young India launched an initiative, “Debate for Democracy: 2004”. Our goal was to galvanize the democratic debate within the two democracies in an election year. And the coinciding Indian and U.S. elections in 2004 offered a unique opportunity to inform people and parliamentarians on both sides about each other’s politics.

Sharing of perspectives was a key part of our effort and so it was appropriate that eminent Indian parliamentarian Hon’ble Mr. Mani Shankar Aiyar’s visit inaugurated our venture. His interactions with policy-makers set the stage for our work. We organized Congressional briefings both before (with Congressman Rush Holt [D, NJ-12]) and after (with Congressman Jim McDermott [D, WA-7]) the momentous Indian Parliamentary Elections in May. Our briefings were organized with enthusiastic bipartisan support with the India Caucus co-sponsoring both events. Congressman Joe Wilson (R, SC-2, Co-Chair India Caucus) was most encouraging and appreciative of our efforts. These briefings brought out aspects of India and its politics that are not ordinarily presented on the Hill.

We went beyond our strictly political audience and put together a half-hour U.S. Presidential Election special on TV Asia (the largest Indian satellite channel in North America) on the eve of the Presidential vote. We also collaborated with Sahara TV in India to present a half-hour special for an audience in India and 53 other countries that was aired in primetime as the election was underway here in the U.S. And as our parting gift to 2004 we present our special bulletin on the American Presidential Election.

Over the coming year, Young India will focus on several policy areas to enhance ties between the United States and India. Enhancing transnational ties cannot end simply at more frequent meetings between the leadership or representatives of India and the United States. Our policy proposals aim to benefit the citizens of each country in specific, meaningful ways, taking the best of both worlds and improving the lives of people across various economic and social groups. This requires not just the involvement of policy-makers and politicians. It requires input from every direction, from activists to business owners to citizens like us. We look forward to bringing you these policy proposals. Our fundamental goal remains that all political parties in all democracies develop a vision that focuses on strengthening communities and individuals by political and economically empowering them. The parties must ensure that social hurdles to such empowerment are duly addressed. Civil rights have to be the centerpiece of all political undertakings. And once we fuse such a political system with a citizenry that values its democratic responsibility, we will begin to march towards the greatness that democracy has in store for us. We conclude by sharing our belief in the goodness of hardworking men and women on whose sweat and blood great nations have been built and hope that their concerns and their challenges will continue to be the focus our political work.

We look to you, our readers, for support and assistance in reaching our goals.

  1. Creating awareness about upcoming national elections in
  2. Shaping the national debate on major areas of focus
  3. Providing mechanisms for citizen engagement

Awareness and engagement are the first steps in the process of Gandhian Non-Violent Transformation. We didn't seek the success or failure of any candidate, but instead sought success in highlighting people-centric issues in a way that mobilizes citizens. We believed that was a way to achieve the greater goal of meaningful democracy through mass participation. 2004 presented itself as a perfect opportunity to demonstrate this principle.

Not only did India and the United States conduct their general elections in 2004, so did Russia and the nascent democracy in Afghanistan and many other nations throughout the globe. We hope the energy and enthusiasm generated by the 2004 election cycle will inspire us to continue our journey to a new life of ourselves, our communities, our nation and the world at large. We are all inter-connected today. Beyond county lines, beyond districts, beyond states and even national boundaries. The global family is here to stay.

Join us in reclaiming our stake in our own democracies.


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