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  Opinion   Edit  07 Jul 2023  AA Edit | Should India’s politicians have a retirement age?

AA Edit | Should India’s politicians have a retirement age?

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Jul 8, 2023, 12:10 am IST
Updated : Jul 8, 2023, 12:10 am IST

It is a question the people of India have been asking, too, but in vain, when it comes to the unending careers of politicians.

NCP President Sharad Pawar. (PTI)
 NCP President Sharad Pawar. (PTI)

One cannot feel guilty about not being able to perceive Ajit Pawar, Maharashtra deputy chief minister, and nephew of NCP founder and Maratha strongman Sharad Pawar, as a great reformer or an eager champion of systemic changes in the larger interest of the people of the state.

Aired as moral advice to his uncle Sharad Pawar, now 83 years old, to retire, his angst is being seen as avarice even by his own partymen. The junior Pawar had beseeched the patriarch: “Give us your blessings… How long will you continue to be in politics?” Interestingly, it is a question the people of India have been asking, too, but in vain, when it comes to the unending careers of politicians.

Of course, it is foolhardy to expect legislators and politicians to make any law in the absence of strong public pressure, especially one that would result in the ending of their own careers.

There are two clear aspects to the career of a politician — one, does an individual enjoy the right to do anything they love to do for as long as they want to do it, and two, what is the legal or rule-based limitation on holding a particular post or office?

The first problem is a tricky one. If one can be a businessman, singer, writer, philosopher, farmer, poet, photographer, online influencer, social activist, doctor or lawyer as long as their body and mind permits it and the people are backing their efforts through remuneration and endorsement, why should politicians, especially in the role of leaders in the party, have a retirement age?

The second is clearer — when soldiers, government doctors, bureaucrats, judges, journalists, professors and most other job-holders have a retirement age, why should there not be a level playing field for politicians?

Mr Ajit Pawar’s direct jibe at the senior Pawar, as a way to justify his own actions of splitting the NCP and joining the BJP-Eknath Shinde government in Maharashtra, may be unpalatable, but the longstanding demand of regular citizens — that while politicians can work for their party, or undertake any other social cause, they cannot hold office, involving public power and taxpayer money, indefinitely — is legitimate.

One of the best suggestions in this regard has come from within the political fraternity, and not surprisingly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has largely internalised the age of 75 as a grand cut-off mark. The BJP has largely implemented it though it has reserved a right to make some exceptions.

But since there is a minimum age for qualification for contesting elections, India must rigorously undertake to discuss the outer limit for a political career. It is up to a political party to have an octogenarian or a nonagenarian president but we cannot have MLAs, MLCs, MPs, ministers, governors, a CM or even the PM forever.

As in the case of the US President, India must also discuss if two or three terms is the maximum one can hold the highest office at the state and national level. That would be the best political reform that can be, and no surprise, if there is any hope, it lies with Mr Narendra Modi, to be able to bring to fruition.

Tags: ncp chief sharad pawar, ajit pawar, aa edit, eknath shinde