Ageing politicians get ballot ready!

Pankaj Sharma/Zee Research Group

Reluctant to cede space, yesteryear mainframe politicians have turned hyperactive in the run up to the 2012 Assembly elections later this year ultimately leading to the 2014 General Elections.

With less than 18 months to go for General Elections scheduled in 2014, hyper-activity among older politicians across the spectrum seems to suggest that it is too early to write them off.

While senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) patriarch LK Advani has donned the role of mentor as suggested by his speech at the conclave, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) supremo Sharad Pawar showed his nephew Ajit Pawar who is the real boss.

This is when both of them have clearly signaled to not to fight next Lok Sabha election in 2014. Likewise, the reins of most political parties in India are in the hands of senior pros who just not appear to be willing to give up. In most cases, age and health are not on their side. For example - leader of the Opposition in Kerala assembly VS Achuthanandan and DMK chief M Karunanidhi are in late 80s. They are not in minority - Shiv Sena head Balasaheb Thackeray (86), L K Advani (84), and Shiromani Akali Dal chief minister of Punjab, Prakash Singh Badal (84) are giving them company.

Following the octogenarian tribe is the list of septuagenarian leaders which includes the likes of the former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda (79) and National Conference’s Farooq Abdullah (74). At 72, Samajwadi Party’s Mulayam Singh Yadav harbours the dream of heading the next third front led-coalition government at the centre. Sharad Pawar at 71 and JMM Chief Shibu Soren at 68 are also following others in age.

But what keeps them going? Is it genuine desire to serve the people or just the will to cling to power at all costs? What keeps pumping that adrenaline in their veins to fight and survive the hurly-burly world of electoral politics?

Pankaj Prasoon, director at the Centre for Indian Political Research and Analysis (CIPRA) agrees that politicians never retire. He says, “Greed for power and money help a politician to stay in the long run. If not in the front, then aged politicians would love to work behind the scenes as a manipulator for the party.”

Former Prime Minister PV Narsimha Rao and Atal Bihari Vajpayee who came out of their retirement to run the government could be the best example of this. Pranab Mukherjee who has spent 22 years as a minister in various Congress governments didn’t hang up the boots but embarked on a new journey. At 76, Pranab is the President of the republic.

While age may not stop our politicians, depleting health can definitely keep a politician away from active politics or even prematurely end his career. The best example of this is Amar Singh, who played the role of a crisis manager for many governments but went out of focus due to health reasons. As reported in the media, even Congress president Sonia Gandhi is undergoing a bad phase in her health.

Explaining the role of health in the life of a politician, psychiatrist Dr Sameer Malhotra, at Max Hospital says, “Health is of utmost important for anyone handling a top position and job of the politician is delivery oriented which requires attention. But, we cannot compare one politician from other since everyone is different.”

Should there be a retirement age for politicians like government employees?

Pankaj at CIPRA argues, “In our country, politicians never retire and why they should since there is no benchmark on this?”

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