The 22-year-old is a student at Bengaluru’s Christ College.

Johnys P Stephen, one of India's youngest panchayat presidents, in a dark blue shirt, smiling directly at the camera
news Kerala Local Body Polls 2020 Monday, December 21, 2020 - 17:35

Johnys P Stephen will become one of the youngest panchayat presidents in the country once he assumes office a few days from now. The 22-year-old, a final year MA English Literature student at Christ College, Bengaluru, was unanimously chosen as the president of the Uzhavoor panchayat in Kerala’s Kottayam as per an agreement reached by the United Democratic Front (UDF) leadership on Monday.

Johnys won from the 4th ward of the Uzhavoor panchayat as an independent candidate supported by the ‘One India One Pension’ (OIOP) group, which is very active in the panchayat. He won by defeating five candidates from opposition fronts with a huge majority of 194 votes out of the total 675 votes polled in the ward. It’s a wonder that the voters chose the youngest candidate as their member despite seasoned candidates being in the fray.

The young man says that both the major fronts in the state approached him to join them. After holding talks with both, the OIOP committee decided to join hands with the UDF. The agreement was signed on Monday morning by which Johnys will be president for the first 2.5 years, after which he will resign and make way for the UDF’s candidate.

Johnys says that he owes much of his victory to the camaraderie he shares with his neighbours. He says the local residents pressed him to contest. He was formerly an office-bearer of the Kottayam Diocesan Youth Movement and part of the Malayala Samajam of St Stephen’s College, Uzhavoor, where he studied BA Literature.

The young member has a vision of his own for the panchayat. “For me, women, children and the elderly are most important. I’ll ensure that the funds of the panchayat reach them without fail,” he says. A day-care centre for the senior citizens of the ward is also something he has envisaged. “Presently, we don’t have a place where the elders can assemble and intermingle. That gap will be bridged,” he says. A cultural centre for fostering arts and culture in children would be established in the ward, he promises.

Not relying only on panchayat funds, Johnys says he’d like to bank on the large chunk of NRIs from his ward. “I’d like to make use of the NRI funds for the development of the ward,” he says.

Reflecting on his victory, Johnys says that people belonging to all sections voted for him setting aside political considerations. As president of the Uzhavoor panchayat, he says his first goal is to make the panchayat office accessible to all sections of society.

He aims to complete his Master’s degree, for which only a few classes remain. After serving the panchayat, he dreams of qualifying for the civil services. “But first, my priority will be to serve the people of my panchayat as a social worker,” he says.

Johnys’ family, comprising his father Stephen, a retired headmaster, mother Laiby Mathew, a schoolteacher, and sister Jyothis Maria, who is a Class 12 student, gives him all support.

Abhish K Bose is a journalist based in Kerala.

Become a TNM Member for just Rs 999!
You can also support us with a one-time payment.