When asked to write about why an Achuthananthan or a Karunanaidhi still dot the regional political landscape of India - not that national politics is any different - it dawned on me that the English dictionary actually had a word for such a phenomenon and that word is Gerontocracy.
Gerontocracy is a form of social organization in which a group of older men or a council of elders dominates or exercises control over the rest.
Hailing from the land of Bheeshma Pitamaha, where old-age homes are a concept still alien to most of rural India, gerontocracy or a compulsory retirement age for politicians may not make much sense to an older generation of Indians who still live by the adage: With age comes Wisdom.
But Young India in the past decade seems to have woken up to the fact that old age and ‘political will’ need not always go hand in hand.
We now actually have media polls on this contentious topic where a majority of voices bat for a mandatory retirement from politics at let’s say, 60 maybe.
Well, the other side too has its proponents who say that anyone with the capability of running the nation effectively must be allowed to do so, age no bar. As they say, age is but a number, right.
But a number which often tends to mute out youthful voices more in tune with the country’s chameleonic socio-political requirements to help keep pace with an ever-changing global scenario, so they say.
So who gets to decide? Maybe we should go for a national referendum to decide on the same.
In a nation where politics is deemed a family heritage by many, that may not have many takers.
There are many who have thankfully faded away like AB Vajpayee or Somnath Chatterjee, but a VS Achuthanandan or a Karunanaidhi still hog the political limelight.
What is disheartening is that the kind of charisma that Achuthanandan at 92 exudes with thousands gathering for just a glimpse of him, cannot be attributed to our young political Turks like Rahul Gandhi who at 45 can only manage a few hundreds and that too more for his chocolate boy looks than for his political acumen.
Karunanidhi at 91 still aspires to become the next Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu while his sons Alagiri and Stalin at 62 and 65 don’t even get to take a shot at the coveted berth.
An AK Antony who even at the age of 75 enjoys a squeaky clean image coolly takes on the CPI(M) in Kerala with a “You should be housed in a Museum” barb, while we have the younger lot like Ganesh Kumar or PC Vishnunath stumbling in and out of controversies, whether real or conjured, thereby not really having any time left to actually redress the public grievances of their voters.
Barack Obama first assumed presidential power at the age of 47. Ok, we too have a younger precedent in Rajiv Gandhi when he became our PM at 40, but who else can we cite?
Our very own Sachin Pilot is known to have once famously remarked in an interview to TOI that Indians are disenchanted with politicians because they are often perceived as a “grey, unresponsive, timeless entity that will not let go off its position of power.”
This coming from someone who simply took on the political baton handed over by his father and did not actually have to work his way up the political spectrum may however cut no ice with many.
But even our central government employees retire at 60. Maybe our politicians should take a cue from SachinTendulkar who retired at 40, when he knew he had nothing more to offer the game.