BJP veteran Shanta Kumar addressing a press conference in Dharamshala on Saturday.(HT photo)
BJP veteran Shanta Kumar addressing a press conference in Dharamshala on Saturday.(HT photo)

BJP veteran Shanta Kumar questions 75-year age limit for contesting polls

Former Union minister Shanta Kumar said age can’t be sole criterion for contesting elections.
Hindustan Times, Dharamshala | By HT Correspondent
PUBLISHED ON APR 06, 2019 05:47 PM IST

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) veteran and former Union minister Shanta Kumar on Saturday questioned the age limit of 75 years set by the party for contesting election.

“I feel age can be a norm but can’t be the sole criterion for contesting elections,” Shanta Kumar said while addressing a press conference in Himachal Pradesh’s Dharamshala on the BJP’s 39th foundation day.

Shanta Kumar, who is one of the founder-members of the BJP, is among the party veterans who have been overlooked by the BJP for the Lok Sabha election.

Other senior BJP leaders including LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and even Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan are out of electoral race in the parliamentary polls.

The 84-year-old leader, however, also said that once the BJP leadership has taken a decision it should be accepted by all. He also denied that he was willing to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. The BJP veteran said he had conveyed to the party about his decision long ago.

Pained over ‘Shotgun’ quitting BJP

Reacting to Shatrughan Sinha’s decision to quit the BJP and join the Congress, Shanta Kumar said it is “very-very painful” for him to see his “old friend” switching sides.

“I tried hard to convince him, asked his wife Poonam Sinha to talk to him but she too is now likely to contest against Union home minister Rajnath Singh. It’s painful for me,” said Shanta Kumar.

Sinha, who joined the Congress earlier in the day, attacked the current BJP leadership saying the senior leaders like Advani, Joshi, and Mahajan are being ignored in the party, which he said is a “one-man show and two-man army”. Sinha also criticised the BJP leadership for setting a 75-year age bar on contesting elections.

Shanta Kumar, on the other hand, refused to comment on tickets being denied to Advani and Joshi. He also refused to be drawn into the controversies surrounding former BJP leaders Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, who have led frontal attacks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah’s style of functioning.

On Advani’s blog, Shanta Kumar said the party patriarch has given something for the party for self-introspection. “Given the devaluation in politics, each party needs to introspect,” said Shanta.

Concerned over Swami Ramdev’s silence

The former Union minister also expressed concern over silence of Yoga Guru Ramdev, who openly supported the BJP in 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

“He is a swami in real sense who made ‘Swadeshi’ a mass movement. However, his silence is worrying me. I don’t know why he is angry,” he said adding, “When I meet him, I will tell him of his old statement in which he said the country needs Modi. I will tell him that country still needs Modi.”

Condemns Sukhram; calls Anil Sharma to step down

Blasting the veteran leader Pandit Sukh Ram for party hopping for personnel gains, Shanta Kumar said, “I don’t know whether he is ashamed of his act or not but Sukh Ram has brought a bad name to Himachal politics.”

Sukh Ram had joined the BJP before 2017 assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh. His son Anil Sharma became a minister in the BJP government, which formed after the assembly polls.

Shanta Kumar said, “Now for his grandson, Sukh Ram has again joined the Congress.”

Sukh Ram and his grandson Aashray Sharma joined the Congress party after the two met party president Rahul Gandhi in March. Aashray Sharma is the son of Anil Sharma, a minister in the BJP government of Jai Ram Thakur.

Shanta Kumar said with Sukh Ram and Aashray Sharma joining the Congress, Anil Sharma’s continuation in the BJP government has become untenable. Anil Sharma will have to step down sooner or later, Shanta Kumar said.

Praise for Congress leader Virbhadra Singh

In an unusual gesture, Shanta Kumar showered praised on former Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh. He said, “I must proudly say that Virbhadra and I are now in the same party, the party of principles that is above Congress and BJP.”

Singh had recently criticised Sukh Ram for party hopping. He had said he has no personal animosity towards Sukh Ram but he is against his politics of “Aaya Ram- Gaya Ram” (frequent floor-crossing).

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