Should politicans retire?
The Chief Election Commissioner of India, T.S. Krishnamurthy, has remarked that politicians should have retirement. I have seen this sentiment being expressed by several others as well on different occasions. These are the sort of statements that one easily tends to nod for, especially when they come from efficient and famous civil servants like Krishnamurthy. I guess generally people agree with this sentiment, as they see a lot of fault with our system of governance and are willing to embrace any change in the system.
Remarkably I've never noticed this viewpoint ever being mooted by literary figures or social activists or those in the film industry -- i.e., those who do not retire. Civil servants, judges, and perhaps a sociology professor or two, often bring up "retirement age for politicians" for discussions. It can't be that only these groups are interested in the well-being of Indian polity. It's just that civil servants, after achieving some status, dabble in topics that get instant applause and approval from the general public. And what do most of these civil servants do anyway, after retirement? They invariably try their hand in politics, preferably electoral politics (most likely of the "aya ram gaya ram" variety).
Before the advent of twenty four hour newschannels, we wouldn't have been much bothered about the age or looks of our politicians. See Neerja Chowdhury's excellent piece -- "In Sickness and in health" -- for instance. But this is the age of image politics. In TV debates, a Milind Deora's accent matters more than what a D. Raja has to say.
The argument that younger elected representatives are going to do better, that they bring quality to parliamentary proceedings, may sound alright. Unfortunately, we do not have good examples to support that claim. Among all our prime ministers, it is Rajiv Gandhi who had a visible dislike for parliamentary discussions. Take our young MP's: Rahul Gandhi, Milind Deora, Sachin Pilot, Jyotiraditya Scindia, etc. What are they famous for? They are in their respective positions only because of their parentage. If you want to be in politics, if you want to represent people, and if you do not have the right connections to start with, it's real hard work. You can't be young by the time you are experienced enough to be at the top. And that experience counts, counts much more than the young looks or the accent or the smiley faces of the Gandhis, Deoras, Pilots, and Scindias.
Politics should be about issues, not about a politician's image, and not just about being in power. There's no logic in arguing that older people need to retire for youngsters to take a stand on political matters. As far as governmental positions are concerned, people do voluntarily retire when their health fail. I guess any argument for a retirement age for politicians springs from a lack of political maturity. Any takers?