Monday, January 24, 2005

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?


At 3:30 AM, Blogger Nakul said...

I agree totally. Rahul Gandhi, for one, displays complete incompetence dealing with simple questions like 'How are you feeling?' even in English, let's ignore his non-existent Hindi for a moment. Which is not to write him off at all: his incompetence has its charm, especially when compared with such uncharismatic blabbermouths as Jaipaul Reddy.
One thing I'm rather curious about is who exactly we classify as a 'politician' -- someone standing for parliamentary office? A party worker who distributes campaign material? A municipal council member? Perhaps the whole debate would make a lot more sense if we said 'person holding elected office' instead of 'politician', which, like the word 'politics' is far too vague to be useful. Something I wonder about is if the question we should really be asking is really why members of the legislature don't have a fixed retirement age like other public servants do. I'm sure there is an answer to that, and that's where it would make more sense to start the debate from.

At 5:51 AM, Blogger Anand said...

Thanks Nakul. According to me, there shouldn't be a retirement age even for members of the legislature. If there's one, then the early starters (who are often close relatives of senior politicians) get an unfairly long term. Fixed tenure is a better idea, regardless of one's age. Even then our politicians will have proxys who rule. That's why the real debates should centre upon the issues involved, and not on image-centric topics like this.

At 7:10 AM, Blogger Siri said...

hi!interesting point, well im currently doin some research on young polticians for my group
and so came across ur blog..but guess what?setting a retiring age like even 75, would wipe out 2/3rds of the neta populace..tell me do we laff or cry??
No wonder swearing in ceremonies take so long...2 mins for the oath takin and abt 10 mins for the cabinet members to walk to and from the podium..lolz

At 3:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

politicans retire and necessary to educate people. is also why are MBA and engineer doctor , police is compulsarly are studies but politicans are not . i asked fool pollitians are through in the hell .

At 10:55 PM, Anonymous Smita. said...

i absolutely don't,i mean if judges of the sc have a retirement age why should nt politicians? considering the fact that most of them are too old to even walk forget bt them ruling a country!but i do agree with you abt rahul gandhi n the plethora of younger wanna be politicians being incompetent with their "fake accents".but the fact still remains if politicians do not have a retirement age we will remain a mere "developing nation" indefinitely.for instance shiv sena with their backward ideas n notions of celebrating valentines day and halloweens?! shiv sena with its Bal thackeray always manages to get our attention for all the wrong reasons.Food for thought eh?

At 11:34 PM, Blogger seemantini bose said...

it is not about age...politics is all about being able to take the right ldecision in the right time, to deal competently during the crisis situations. rather than being a shadow of their parents, the young politicians should try to build up their own identity and win the confidence of the mass. if one is experienced,nothing is as good as having them in the legislature. age can never come in between one's experience and its application. I strongly feel the chioce should be of the right person...let him/her be old or young.


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