Typically, management students like to spend their summers interning with high-profile global financial consultants. But not Abhishek Padhye, a 25-year-old business management student at XLRI Jamshedpur. Padhye has opted for a summer internship with the Congress party in Delhi ahead of the general election this year. He already has a degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee, and three years of corporate experience with Tata Steel in the bag. But he says he wanted something new: "You don't get to experience a general election often. Moreover, I want to be part of the policy-making process."
a"We support Modi as a candidate and we are doing campaign work. We at CAG decided to support the BJP's prime ministerial candidate as we analysed the growth of Gujarat in terms of infrastructure, power and ports. In a democracy, you have to take sides and we went with the BJP," he says.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) may be the new kid on the block, but it has already clambered aboard the political intern bandwagon. The party has hired around 60 to 70 students from varied backgrounds such as medicine and engineering since December last year. "We hired 15 to 20 interns every 15 days and they worked with coordinators in the legal team, on electoral analysis, with social media, and conducted door-todoor surveys. They gave 20 hours a week for AAP, without any payment," says Nitin Singh, a software engineer and part of the AAP's Mumbai committee which handles social media for Maharashtra. Gaurav Gupta, an AAP volunteer from Delhi, says students from foreign universities intern for a longer period.
Job consultants say it adds considerable value to a resume. "Political interns will be looked at more positively. A stint with a political party will only add value to a resume as it will show that the professional is motivated by the larger objective of the welfare of the country," says Rajiv Burman, Managing Partner at executive search firm Lighthouse Partners.
Analysts say no corporate experience can match that gained from working on political campaigns and public engagement strategies. The exposure helps students during their final placements as campaigning provides valuable lessons in strategy, data analysis, financial planning and marketing strategy. "A finance student will get a practical understanding of fund-raising and spending, which is a crucial activity for every political party. Similarly, a marketing student gets ample opportunity to learn and contribute in the area of marketing and strategy," says Spectrum Talent Management's Agarwal.
Saanya Gulati, Research and Outreach Manager, I for India, which generates performance report cards for elected representatives based on user ratings, says the LAMP fellowship has helped her a lot. It provides an opportunity for fresh graduates interested in politics to gain exposure in the field. "My current assignment enables me to leverage my experience at LAMP in terms of my understanding of challenges facing India's public sector. The LAMP fellowship gave me a unique opportunity to observe how a member of Parliament works," she says.
Some universities also offer short-term programmes that enable young people to work closely with politicians. Haryana-based Ashoka University has a Young India Fellowship programme under which four students intern with political parties or political leaders every year. "As the founding batch of the Young India Fellowship programme, we were all set to find something offbeat for our eightmonth experiential learning module," says Kshitij Garg, a fellow from the founding 2011/12 programme. "The development office of MP Naveen Jindal and its work in Kurukshetra, Haryana, was an appealing opportunity."