Imagine attending college online from the chair of the Mayor of the capital city of a State. Well, 21-year-old Arya Rajendran is doing not just that; she recently created history by becoming the country’s youngest Mayor to be sworn in.
— by Asha Prakash
Becoming Mayor of Thiruvananthapuram Corporation at 21. Was there a hint this was coming? Why do you think the party chose such a young person for the position?
Not at all! Also it’s not a post where you get to predict beforehand the possibilities of being chosen. I got to know about it from a channel reporter first, and immediately switched on the TV and saw the news scrolls. It sank in only when the party communicated the same to me later.
I don’t really think too much about my age at this point. The party has placed its trust on me with this position. I don’t think they will do it without seeing some merit in me. My only aim now is to fulfill that duty well.
How did your friends react on hearing the news?
Oh, they are all jubilant. I was into SFI (the left student’s wing) and they knew I was contesting in the local body election. They were not surprised when I won and were happy for me but they got to know all that from me. But they got to know about the Mayor appointment from the news. It was a huge surprise for them, definitely.
How are you managing studies while being Mayor?
For the past few days I had work in the office in the morning and exams in the afternoon. As of now I am able to manage both and I plan to continue in the same manner. I attend online classes from office whenever I’m free, and my teachers are very supportive.
Do you experience any issues while dealing with people much older than you in office?
I haven’t experienced any serious issues so far. I’m well aware that the respect people show is for the position of the Mayor not for Arya the person. Everyone is giving me that respect regardless of political affiliations; even those occupying the highest positions in the party.
People might see Arya the person as one among them but not the Mayor. Of course there are some allegations going on about this but I don’t wish to respond to every such; rather I don’t pay attention to them. I only see it as funny; people can say anything.
The previous Mayor of Thiruvananthapuram VK Prasanth was only 34 when appointed and was very popular. Do you think he set a precedent?
Definitely. The last five years were not easy for Kerala, we had the floods, then Covid and more. Mayor Prasanth dealt with it all well, be it the distribution of essential items to flood hit areas or something else. His age was not a factor there, it was just about how a Mayor dealt with a situation. I feel we need both the energy of the youth and the experience of older people, not either one.
From the point of view of someone young, why do you think things like waste management just don’t sorted out in our State?
For something specific like waste management, the Corporation or councillors alone can’t make a difference until every individual feels that this is my city and every bit of waste I throw carelessly will come back to me. With regard to other issues, there are many reasons, at times the fault is with the officials. But we have proved that a coordinated effort yields results. The Smart City project for example, was a success during the tenure of Mayor Prasanth. It was the result proper coordination. Also, the Kerala Govt is made up of older people and we are doing a great job.
What made you so politically aware at an age when a lot of youngsters are apolitical?
I have grown up seeing my parents who are staunch supporters of the party. But more than that, I had a personal conviction from a very young age about the stands of the left. ‘Left is right’ as they say. As the Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan once said, the Communist Party formed on the basis of ideals and stands. Not the other way round where a group of people formed a party and then decided the stands. So my inspiration was definitely the decisions of the party.
What would you like to say to the apolitical among the youngsters?
I wouldn’t say everyone should enter politics. But everyone should understand politics, from a young age – the politics of truth, the politics of right and wrong. We are a country which upholds democratic and secular values. One can work for the community from whichever field you are in, be it through charity or something else.