Millennium Post

Old must give way to the new

When young nations are ruled by old men who can’t communicate with the youth and do not understand them, we have situations where self-proclaimed anarchists like Arvind Kejriwal mislead the people and grab popular mind-space.

Many people have been moved by  BJP leader Jaswant Singh’s genuine tears of pain, L K Advani’s hurt pride and Murli Manohar Joshi’s sadness at the BJP central election committee refusing to give them the seats they wanted. I too have been moved by their plight. Compared to these stalwarts, how many leaders can claim to enjoy the same stature? Some youth leaders are doing well but they are yet to earn any respect. As for the older lot, it is full of seasoned scamsters especially within the Congress.

Comparatively the senior BJP leaders, from Advani to Joshi to Singh, are all people for whom a deep sense of respect comes almost automatically. They may or may not have been revolutionary politicians but they have been clean statesmen who have done their bit and more. They have also served as dignified party workers and not tried to convert the party into their fiefdom. They must be treated with dignity and kept on a higher pedestal. After all, with thieves, scamsters and criminals all around in politics, these are the people we need to highlight as role models.

Thus, it is painful to see that the BJP central leadership has failed to maintain good communication with these leaders and explain to them the situation, and to keep their respect intact. The BJP should have communicated positive media statements directly from Narendra Modi and Rajnath Singh explaining that the respect for the senior politicians was intact and it was only because of electoral calculations that such seat allocations had become necessary.

Having said this, it is also important to clarify that there is merit in Arun Jaitley’s statement that members must accept party decisions with a smile. Why? The reason is that the old must give way to the new. For years, no one questioned these leaders who had become pillars of the party. And these leaders almost always got what they wanted. But the status quo had to be changed and change is always painful even when necessary. Yes, the change-maker must make it smooth, and the BJP failed in that respect, but one must also take a holistic view of the situation.

Is it acceptable to portray an elderly man as a potential prime minister even when he is not in the best of health or bear with an ageing leader whose voice is inaudible? Even if one accepts that politics is about sacrifice and passion and that there should be no age of retirement in this field, there is still no justification for continuing with leaders who are past their prime.

The average age of the Union Cabinet is about 65 years and many Indian politicians are over the age of 70. The average age of a politician in the US is 60 years with no one being allowed to be President for more than eight years; in Brazil, it is about 58 years; Japan is at an average of 57 years; Iran is at 53 years; Britain and Germany are at around 52 years, Australia is at 51 and Russia at 47. Now, compare these figures with the median age of their respective nations. The median age in India is 25 years; in US, 34 years; Brazil is at 29 years; Japan 45; Iran 27; Britain 40; Germany 44; Australia 37; and Russia is at a median age of 38 years.

In other words, India is the youngest country in the world with the oldest Cabinet. Even dictatorial China, where politicians retain power forever, is better off with an average Cabinet age of 63 years compared the median age of population at 34 years. Isn’t it time for change? The Arab Spring was a result of this huge age difference between the rulers in those countries and the average age of the population. When young nations are ruled by old men who can’t communicate with the youth, who do not understand the youth, and with whom the youth doesn’t identify, we have situations wherein self-proclaimed anarchists like Arvind Kejriwal mislead the youth and grab popular mind-space and as well voters. It’s time for all parties to introspect, and for all senior leaders to think of the nation. In spite of their goodwill and passion of politics, they need to take a step back and become the guiding force enabling the party to create new leaders. It is deeply disappointing when leaders like Advani or Singh are unable to push forth young leaders who are suitable enough to replace them in the long run. This nurturing of a second generation of nation-builders should have been one of their biggest contributions to the party. One of the most important character traits of a great leader is that he trains more great leaders.

Only insecure leaders deliberately choose to stunt the growth of their juniors. In the process, they create a situation wherein they have to be forcefully pushed out of the fray to make way for new players. Agreed that the new lot may not be as qualified or charismatic as the old guard, but still it was the duty of the elder statesmen towards the nation to nurture new leaders.

The author is a management guru and director of IIPM think tank
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