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March 30, 2014 / subramanyam

The Old-New Tussle

Right from the days of Nehru politicians taking a voluntary retirement was a rarity.

Right from the days of Nehru politicians taking a voluntary retirement was a rarity.

          Ring out the old, ring in the new, ring frosty bells across the snow. One of the things easier said than done in politics. In almost all the jobs we have superannuation where the person who has put his mind-body and soul at work for decades altogether is asked to retire, go home and get some rest for the rest

of his life.

          However, there is nothing like a retirement in politics. That’s true at least in the Indian context. Some of the greatest leaders the country has seen have ended up being the rulers till their last breath. We never saw Pandit Nehru or Smt. Indira Gandhi stepping down and leading a retirement life.  They say there were occasions where they wanted to step down but that never happened.  Not just the national leaders, even the leaders in the state level say NTR, MGR , Achyutanandan, Karunanithi or Deve Gowda never gave any signals of retirement due to age or any other consideration.  Most of the political activity in the country has been and continues to be person centric and this is one more  reason why all these leaders were effective till their own health failed them. Moreover,  the political parties are also more or less becoming family estates and the children of the founders are becoming the natural heirs of the political parties. This dynasty politics vests the powers with the leader and his/her family forever and thus there is not question of stepping down or handing over the baton.

          However, in case the there is any internal democracy in the party and there is no family succession,  a generation change must happen at some point of time for  every political party. Experience shows us that this has always come with a lot of strife in India. Let’s start with the Grand Old Party of India, the Indian National Congress. In the late 60’s the party has not yet turned into the fiefdom of the Nehru-Gandhi family, and it was in those years that there was an

One of the first occasions where people from different generations clashed

One of the first occasions where people from different generations clashed

old guard led by Nehruvian era leaders like Shri Kamraj, Shri Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy, Shri Morarji Desai etc and a relatively young team led Smt. Indira Gandhi and her team of the young turks. The former team was reluctant to give up the control and the latter was more than enthusiastic to takeover. While there is more to this fight than just the gap in generations. Things would have been fantastic had the power transition been smooth. Unfortunately, that did not happen and what we saw was a bitter fight between the factions and the party itself broke into two.

          Same was the case some 30 years later,   The generation of Shri P.V. Narasimha Rao and Shri Sitaram Kesari were unceremoniously ousted and shown the door to make way for Sonia and her younger generation of leaders. Well, again it being congress and the person being the scion of Gandhi family gave a new twist to things. This trend is not limited to congress alone,  we see it in almost every party. How else can we explain Karunanithi the 89 year old veteran still holding on to the presidency of DMK or a 91 year old Achyutanandan who is the leader of opposition in Kerala.

          There is a leader in every party who actually builds it and nurtures it for decades; when he/she reaches the twilight phase there will naturally be a squabble in the party for the leadership. He/she has to choose one , but most of the times they will have to make a choice where they have to prefer an able person than their own favorite.  That’s where the trouble starts,  choosing the one with more loyalty might be detrimental to the party for there might be someone who is more able than this person to lead . choosing some one with greater ability will draw the ire of the loyal followers.  This again is one of the reasons why people wish to stay on top till their last breath. Of course unfulfilled dreams and the want of the highest post of the nation is also a reason. Well politics is not a job and you ought to give your everything to succeed there, so naturally leaving the gaddi is not that easy.

          However, is there an option? Is there a way where a person can hold on to the gaddi for ever? No, as the body accumulates years one becomes a spent force and actually retirement would be the only choice left.  A younger leader will be able to connect well with the masses, It is their energy and their ideas that will bring prosperity to the party. It is hard to let go, but that is where the real good for the party is. Unfortunately many leaders are unable to see this and this is causing big trouble to the parties and nation.

          What ever is happening in BJP is also the same,BJP is a party that more or less has stayed away from the dynastic style of policies and is promotes good


The new is taking over from the old in BJP.

amount of intra-party democracy. Today in that party , an 87 year oldAdvani is unhappy ever since it was made clear to him that he would not be the prime ministerial candidate. The 80 year old MuraliManohar Joshi and a 75+Jaswant Singh are having troubles while dealing with a party leadership that is in its sixties.   Weren’t theseAdvani’s ,Joshis and Singh’s  great leaders?  They were, in fact they were fantastic men intheir prime. They are men who created an alternative force in the country, they are ones who stood against the mighty congress and gave the country its first full term non-congress government. However, today most of these leaders are sulking as they are not having their way in running the party.


          The octogenarian leaders and their stooges are in fact making it for very tough for the BJP this time. This might cost the BJP dearly, but how useful will these leaders be five years from now is the big question? Wouldn’t it be good if they retire gracefully and a new generation gets groomed in governance right in front of their eyes ? That looks good and more logical ,doesn’t it? Do you think that the generation of old leaders who ruled the country once are oblivious to this fact ? No , not at all.   Still they behave the way they behave, probably that’s the allurement of power. That’s probably how power allures a person. To me the younger leadership of BJP led my Modi and Rajnath is doing the right thing today by confronting the older leadership and getting a better connect with the people. But will these Modis and Rajnaths   hand over the power to another younger generation 15 years down the line. Will they hand it over voluntarily ? or will they too behave like their predecessors ? That’s some thing only the time will tell.  Let’s hope that things would change for better.


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