New Delhi, August 1: Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel has announced her decision to resign from her post. In her resignation letter sent to the party high command, the veteran Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader claims that she would like to relieve herself of the charges entrusted to her, as she is about to the reach the age of 75. Her decision has been appreciated by BJP President Amit Shah, who claims that Anandiben has set an excellent example before other party leaders who are aging. “The party would respect her sentiments… As the Vibrant Gujarat Summit is coming up, and elections are due in the state next year, a replacement would be made.”
This unwritten writ of ’75-year age bar’ came into effect after the duo of Amit Shah-Narendra Modi took over the reigns of the party. Critics claim that this unstated rule of the party was brought in to sideline all those faces who could challenge the superiority of Modi. Using the 75 year age bar, several key BJP faces have either been completely sidelined or turned into backbenchers whose opinion no longer impacts the decision making of the party. (ALSO READ: Anandiben Patel resigns: Nitin Patel, Vijay Rupani among frontrunners for next Gujarat CM)
Here are 5 reasons why the ’75-year age bar’ should not remain a criteria for politicians:
Are those above 75 years brain dead?
If the BJP leadership feels that those above 75 years are mentally incompetent to hold on to their posts, they don’t need to introspect too long. One of their most intriguing leaders – Dr Subramanian Swamy, who is an icon for most of the BJP supporters, is himself 76 years of age. But the campaign he has simultaneously launched against the Gandhi Parivaar, Jayalalithaa, black money and ‘secular politics’ makes it clear that he is nowhere incompetent. Even the most ardent of his rivals would agree that Swamy is the greatest saffron intellectual in contemporary politics. Similarly, some other leaders of the BJP who have been sidelined using this 75-year age bar include Vajpayee loyalists like Arun Shourie, Yashwant Sinha and Murli Manohar Joshi.
While it is true that at 75 years of age, a person is not in his best physical condition. But that cannot form the argument to force someone to give up important positions in public life. And many of septuagenarian and octogenarian politicians have exposed the hollowness of this physical limitations argument. Wasn’t 93-year-old VS Achuthanandan of Communist Party of India (Marxist) one of the most active campaigner in the recent Kerala assembly elections. At cadre level, most of the CPI(M) workers claimed that they would not had been able to defeat the Congress-led UDF without the active participation of Achuthanandan.
Was former President APJ Abdul Kalam’s physical participation restricted due to his age? One should note that he became the President of India at 73 years of age, and continued to perform in his charismatic style till the age of 78, when the then government decided not to give him a second tenure.
At what age did Atal Bihari Vajpayee became the Prime Minister?
BJP patriarch, and one of its most influential politician, Atal Bihari Vajpayee became the Prime Minister at the age of 74. Would any BJP leader who advocates for the 75-year age bar, dare to speak against their own icon? Not only did he continue his first reign as the Prime Minister in a remarkable manner, the party had also projected him as the face during the 2004 general elections. If giving up at 75 years of age the most noble deed, why didn’t Vajpayee handed over his position to the then young guns of the party like Arun Jaitley or Sushma Swaraj?
Septuagenarians have shook the establishment!
How can any politically conscious citizen forget the Anna revolution. At 77 years of age, Anna Hazare turned into the face of the Anti-Corruption movement, articulating the need to wage a war against graft in the most apt manner. Despite corruption being a poll plank since the era of late V P Singh, it was under Hazare’s call that the youth across the nation galvanized themselves.
Even in a progressive democracy like the United States, a political leader is not defined by his age. 74-year-old self-styled socialist Bernie Sanders sent shockwaves across the polity of United States by running a left-leaning campaign for presidential nomination against Hillary Clinton.
Unethical to force voluntary retirement from politics
If the constitution has set no age cap for contesting elections, it not ethical for any political party to compel someone holding a constitutional office to vacate the same only due to his age. Similarly, the manner in which the party has forced the likes of Murli Manohar Joshi, Lal Krishna Advani, Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha to embrace retirement has disappointed every supporter of this saffron outfit who could trace the party back to the roots of Jan Sangh.