ntering the fray for the upcoming round of Rajya Sabha elections is HD Deve Gowda, who has had a long innings in politics and at 88, is still going strong. He has been among the luckiest in politics, having had occasions to rule Karnataka as Chief Minister and later India as Prime Minister. He was well-known for snoring through Parliament sessions even during the 1996-97 period while he was PM. As seasons changed, his son HD Kumaraswamy could earn the CM chair repeatedly but exited without completing any term. It is interesting to note that in a democracy like that of India, leaders defy barriers of age with extreme mental working. Many of the leaders and other politicians may suffer from physical problems but they remain as sharp as probably nobody else does.
Self-restraint is something that is not often visible in India’s leadership profile.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is around 70, and as per his own stipulation for seniors, cannot hold office either in government or the BJP after another five years. This could, on a sane understanding, rule out another term for him after the 2024 polls. Ideally, keeping in mind the mental agility of many in the field of politics, it is difficult to say that they have become senile or do not understand complex issues. Politics is such a business where, with age comes comprehension. Also, in a country like India, the youth seem to be less trustworthy whereas across the world, young leaders like Justin Trudeau of Canada, Emmanuel Macron of France, Boris Johnson of UK and Shinzo Abe of Japan have demonstrated great leadership qualities. Even Xi Jinping of China at 66 years or Vladimir Putin of Russia at 67 years is successfully holding forth as global leaders. These leaders prove that age is but just numbers. However, Donald Trump at 73 years may be considered unreasonable by some, but that might not have anything connected to his age.
Indian democracy has not put any age bar on serving politicians. Nor does it stipulate educational status for them to qualify as people’s representatives. It is not as if the educated can be in any way better off in the field of policy making since our system of education has never been designed to make us think and decide. The power to take firm decisions and stick to them can only come when one is genuinely connected to grassroots. We have been observing leaders who claim to be firm and strong, but sadly their connect with the poor and with the suffering masses has virtually been zero. This creates an environment where neither age nor literacy can give birth to empathy for the underprivileged. Therefore, the argument that the old should retire is as lame as claiming that the Indian youth has the ability and vision to take the nation forward in an inclusive manner. However, even if the youth is unable to take control now, eventually when the old die out, the present generation of youth will have to take over anyway but they may not be young at that juncture. While technology is being rampantly propagated, it must be remembered that the gadgets are at best cold and effective. While effectiveness is essential, it is important that human values are kept intact when efforts are being made to create a new society. It is easy to speak these words but the fine balance between compassion and firmness is yet to be discovered.
As can be seen across the globe, all flourishing or emerging societies are lucky to have young leaders at the helm. It is not as if someone has vacated the positions for these women and men. They have proved their mettle and struggled to the reach the apex and are successfully serving their nations. Similarly, Indian youth cannot expect the older generation to leave gently. They cannot also wait out till the demise of the aged. Struggle and a vision are the absolute necessities which the youth has to possess to bring about a change in the existing order. There is no easy way in. As most of us Indians want life to be without hard work, politics is disliked and the educated consider it the profession of the scum. That could be a major reason why our policy making process is majorly skewed. Policies and programmes create a nation. The youth of India has to prepare for a long haul of hard work and unwavering vision if it wants to change the destiny of this country.