Pinning hope on getting a berth in the Rajya Sabha, the five-time Congress legislator from Panipat, Balbir Pal Shah, on Sunday said he would not contest the next assembly elections.
In an interview with Hindustan Times, the 69-year-old former president of the state Congress said that a strong sentiment prevailed in society that politicians too should also have a fixed retirement age.
“As I will turn 70 on August 28, I have made my mind to leave electoral politics. People from all walks of society want a fixed retirement age for politicians also. It struck me that why not I should take an initiative and set a precedent,” said the prominent Punjabi leader.
Shah clarified that no one from his family, including his son, were interested in joining politics. “I am not like (the state power minister) Capt Ajay Yadav who is planning to field his son from Gurgaon parliamentary constituency. I do not believe in imposing family members in politics,” said the outspoken leader. “There was a time when senior politicians were accommodated in the Rajya Sabha to draw benefit from their experiences and make way for the younger generation. But, now, the young faces with no mass base are adjusted in the upper house,” he said.
Clarifying that he has had no feelers from the party on the scope of a place in the Rajya Sabha, Shah said he was committed to work and share his vast political experience to strengthen the Congress.
On his decision to opt out from the screening committee of the state Congress that was formed to select candidates for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections, Shah said he had recommended the name of finance minister Harmohinder Chhathha for giving representation to a Sikh leader in the panel. “Frankly speaking, I was actively involved by the Congress at the state level till 1996 and then I was confined to Panipat. Now, I may not be able to assess a leader beyond Panipat. I cannot justify the work offered on ticket aspirants’ assessment,” Shah said, adding that he did not have any ill-will against anyone even if his political acumen was not used to the fullest by the party leadership.
Balbir Pal Shah
His father, Hukumat Rai, was a Congress legislator from Panipat in 1972. Shah represented won this seat as a Congress candidate in the 1987, 1991, 2000, 2005 and 2009 assembly elections.
Once a powerful politician who was the president of Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee from 1987 to 1989 and party general secretary from 1978 to 1979 and 1985 to 1986, he was later sidelined by the party. In 1996, Independent Om Parkash Jain defeated Shah. Shah was a transport minister in the Bhajan Lal government from 1991 to 96.
Alleging gross neglect of his constituency in development works and an indifferent state Congress leadership, he had resigned as MLA on August 4 2013. On August 16, he withdrew the resignation and told HT that it was done "following timely intervention of the party high command, not the state leadership".