Old Guard vs New Gen
Old Guard vs New Gen, S Madhusudhana Rao, Lal Krishna Advani and Jaswant Singh. It is said maturity comes with age which makes a person wise.
It is said maturity comes with age which makes a person wise. At least that is the belief in traditional societies like ours where the aged used to be respected and regarded as mentors in the conventional families. At societal level, the elderly are still treated with a modicum of reverence as they are seen as repositories of knowledge and worldly despite the New Gen ideas making inroads into modern life of every class of people. The exception is political class which, instead of gracefully retiring from politics after attaining certain age, tries to exploit the age-old factor for its advantage.
If politics is the art of surviving at any cost, our geriatric gentry has mastered it to such an extent that their age, long stay in party and experience in political machinations are fully made use of to wrench off a self-advantageous deal. In the present political spectrum that is kaleidoscopically colourful and with patterns changing with every twist and turn, it is a field day for seniors. They have the requisite political experience, muscle to muster a mass of support and the ‘elderly’ person tag to claim a seat as lawmaker in a State Assembly or Parliament.
Nothing wrong in a country that respects age and gives freedom to every person to pursue a career that is profitable. But if political ambitions are longer than the age and physical and mental faculties are showing their invisible effects on the personality, surely, they need to introspect what they can do to an electorate that is pinning hopes on him/her.
The current political campaign for some State Assemblies and the Lok Sabha has thrown up many surprises and brought out the dichotomy in the Indian polity. For instance, the Old Guard versus the young and their perceived fight for supremacy in the battle for ballot. It is immaterial who is fighting whom and on what political platform. The fact remains that there is a clash of ideas and ideologies between leaders whose age gap is generational. Whether the old will yield to the new or the e-Gen will respect the elderly and follow in their footsteps is not the question.
The issue is whether we should continue to allow the aged to hold sway over an exploding population of youths who are being brought up on the strength of digital technology and whose wavelength will never match that of even their parents, let alone the elderly leaders.
If we look at the recent cases of Bharatiya Janata Party veterans Lal Krishna Advani and Jaswant Singh against this background, they may have become victims, rather unwittingly, although intra-party feuds and conspiracies abound. But, sadly, both veterans have made a show of themselves by sulking and crying over allotment of seats of their choice. Since they attracted more media attention, their names often crop up. But it should not be construed as the duo was singled out. There are more veterans in other parties who want to cling to power as long as they can.
However, the treatment meted out to senior leaders like Advani and Jaswant has drawn widespread criticism, including from their adversaries in the Congress who have been cashing in on voters’ sentiment and questioning the BJP’s moral ground to rule the country if it comes to power after the parliamentary elections. The target, of course, is the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi who is portrayed as the enemy of the Old Guard and can’t stand opposition to his autocratic way of functioning.
Without going into merits and demerits of BJP’s selection of candidates for the coming Assembly and parliamentary polls – for that matter, any party that is in the fray and is in the process of finalising contestants – if we look at the wrangles preceding the fielding of candidates for various constituencies in the country, what is clear is merit is taking a back seat often. Winnability, of course, is the criterion. If that is the decisive factor, age should not come in the way of giving tickets to aspirants whether they are young or old; veterans or novices. What matters most is a candidate’s win against all odds and add one more number to the party on which he/she will contest.
But not many are buying that line of argument in competitive politics the country is witnessing today. In a seeming battle against corruption and for a clean government, every party is vying with other to put up ‘clean’ candidates to prove to the electorate that it is one up. In the process, some have to be thrown aside and some have to be picked up. The elimination process is tough and those who undertake it must be prepared to face bouquets and brickbats.
If the BJP has scratched some leaders on the wrong side and gone into damage control to save blushes from Congress criticism, other parties too are in a similar situation and the dilemmas they face are no different from those of the saffron party. The only difference is every action of BJP is being intensely scrutinised and weighed. In a way it is good for the future of the party which can correct itself, if it is prepared to do so.
However, the ongoing debate within and outside the party on sidelining seniors (a mild way of saying purging) raises a pertinent question that is applicable to all political parties in the country: Should not there be an age bar for politicians? This, in fact, is an oft-discussed issue at public forums without any result. When every other profession has, under service rules, why does not it apply to political leaders? The answer lies in the question itself: they don’t make it applicable to themselves.
If they don’t, it is time voters make it applicable by retiring them. When India is set to become the world’s youngest country with 64 per cent of its population in the working age group, what we need are young leaders to address the concerns of a whole new generation, not the kind of leaders who live in the past and think of the political future of their kith and kin.