Is 70 the new voluntary retirement age in politics in Odisha?

Bhubaneswar: A day after senior Congress leader Narasingha Mishra announced that he will not contest 2019 elections citing that it is not justified after the age of 70; former Chief Minister Hemanand Biswal too echoed similar views on Friday.

Throwing weight behind Mishra’s proposal, Biswal, who will be 80 years old in 2019, too announced that he is not keen on contesting the upcoming general elections in 2019.

“I am not keen on contesting polls and politicians should step down from active politics after the age of 70,” said Biswal.

Earlier, Mishra’s proposal that one should not contest election after 70 had received support from several politicians including former union minister and Congress leader Chandrasekhar Sahu.

But many felt that age is not a critical factor in contesting polls. Agriculture minister and senior BJD leader Damodar Rout differed on Mishra’s opinion on the age factor.

Similarly, senior Congress leader and former PCC president Niranjan Patnaik claimed that he would love to contest polls if his health permits.

“Age is not at all a factor. Hence, if politicians are physically fit and want to serve people, they can,” said Patnaik.

With the debate over the right age to contest polls still on in Odisha, there are 17 legislators out of 147 who have already attained the age of 70.

MLA Ved Prakash Agarwal is already in his 80s while Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and others including senior BJD leaders Damodar Rout, Prafulla Samal, Badri Narayan Patra have crossed 70.

“If my party wants, I will contest polls. I personally think age is never a constraint to do any work,” said Higher Education Minister, Anant Das.

“I had contested the polls after crossing the age of 70 and had defeated my rival with a margin of over 49,000 votes. I am capable of winning elections even at this age,” said MLA, Ved Prakash Agarwal.

Not only BJD, several leaders in BJP including Duryodhan Majhi and Bibhuti Bhusan Harichandan have also attained the age of 70.

Now whether such leaders would contest the polls in the upcoming general elections in Odisha is now a million dollar question.