The cabinet reshuffle in Madhya Pradesh on Thursday sends a political message to BJP leaders – retire from active politics at an age of 75 or get thrown out.
Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan dropped 86-year-old home minister Babulal Gaur and 76-year-old PWD minister Sartaj Singh from his cabinet apparently on the direction of BJP president Amit Shah.
State BJP president Nandkumar Singh Chauhan and state BJP affairs in-charge Vinay Sahasrabuddhe told the two leaders that they should resign from their ministerial positions considering their advanced age. After an initial reluctance, the two agreed.
BJP constitution silent on age-linked political retirement
The BJP’s constitution is silent on age-linked political retirement but the party is keen to enforce an unwritten rule to infuse fresh blood into governance.
Narendra Modi made it clear in 2014 when he took charge as the Prime Minister. He did not pick a BJP leader aged 75 or above for his cabinet, annoying party veterans LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi.
The unwritten rule was applied for the first time for the cabinet of the BJP-ruled state – ahead of the much-talked-about ministerial rejig at the Centre.
And if the rule is applied at the Centre, minority affairs minister Najma Heptullah, who turned 76 on April 13, and micro, small and medium enterprises minister Kalraj Mishra, who turned 75 on Friday, may lose their cabinet berths.
Party leaders claim the 75-year retirement rule will now be applicable for ticket distribution too. If that happens, many senior leaders, including Lok Sabha Speaker and eight-time MP from Indore Sumitra Mahajan, may be denied ticket for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Mahajan turned 73 on April 12.
Senior leaders in MP raise concern over age-bar rule
Senior leaders in Madhya Pradesh have raised concern over the age-bar rule. “It is true that new leaders should be given opportunities in the party and government and it is possible only when the seniors give space for them,” former union minister Vikram Verma told Hindustan Times.
“But, instead of dropping the ministers in Madhya Pradesh abruptly, they could have been given less important portfolios to allow them to complete their tenures. We are not in a government job that we should retire on a given date.”
Shah, however, made his intentions clear in November 2015 at a public function in Chitrakoot. Referring to RSS ideologue Nanaji Deshmukh, the BJP president said a politician shouldn’t remain in active politics after 60 and should take to social service.