Column: The Age Debate Goes On

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: Should there be an age limit for contesting elections? This question has been asked innumerable times in the past. In fact, it comes up every time a 70 plus or so politician decides to contest an election.

This question has also been posed to politicians in our state. Asked about it former minister, Damodar Rout once famously said it was his right to contest elections, age no bar. The opening issue is in focus once again with former union minister and Congress veteran, Bhakta Charan Das dropping hints that he may not contest elections anymore.

Das, who started out as a socialist and was mentored in politics by former Prime Minister, Chandrashekhar, lost the last election from Kalahandi. His son, who contested the Bhawanipatna assembly seat, also lost.

There is speculation that Das, who is one of the senior most Congress leaders of the state, may promote his son in politics now. This, in fact, is the case with most of the leaders who decide against contesting elections. Take for example the case of former forest and environment minister, Bijayshree Routray whose son contested from his traditional seat in Bhadrak district this time and won.

Routray had made clear his decision not to contest much before 2019 elections were announced. He had also sought to take the high moral ground saying that politicians should withdraw from electoral politics after a certain age making way for the younger generation. But few people knew at that time that he was hinting at his own son while referring to the younger generation.

In the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) there are some other interesting cases of father’s promoting their sons. Most interesting perhaps in the case of former MLAs, Pravat Tripathy and Pravat Biswal who were denied tickets by the party because of their alleged involvement in the chit fund scam. However, they managed to lobby with the leadership successfully for tickets to their sons. Sons of both these leaders are now MLAs.

Some Congress leaders have faced criticism for promoting their sons in politics. Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief, Niranjan Patnaik was slammed by his own party colleagues for making his son a candidate from Balasore Lok Sabha constituency while himself contesting from two assembly constituencies. Both father and son lost.

Congress veteran, Narasingha Mishra, who had initially expressed his reluctance to contest elections, won from Bolangir assembly seat while his son lost from the Bolangir Lok Sabha constituency.
Mishra’s entry into the fray had surprised many as his earlier statements had created an impression that he was an advocate of an age limit for contesting elections.

While Mishra himself went on to contest the polls along with his son former minister, Bijayshree Routray stuck to his promise of not contesting but ensured a ticket for his son. His family, thus, continues to hold sway over the Basudevpur seat.

That brings us back to the original question —if there should be an age limit for contesting elections? While that question remains relevant now we should also be asking if leaders withdrawing from electoral politics should be allowed to push their children into the electoral arena. This , in fact, is a more important and relevant question as time has come to put an end to dynastic politics which has become the bane of our country.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)