Lucknow: BJP is a party of ‘possibilities’ and it never ceases to amaze us with its well thought strategies and its ability to turn any unfortunate situation into fortunate one. Turning such an obstructive rule, which barred all the BJP members above the age of 75 from a ministerial berth in the new government, into an opportunity, the ruling party fed two birds with one scone as it ignored this rule recently for its new member ‘Metroman’ Sreedharan and seemingly opened gates for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is already 70-years-old and isn’t eligible under this rule for 2024 general elections.
The 88-year-old former Railways official, Shreedharan, who is famously known for building Delhi metro system and many complex bridges, has recently joined BJP and is being advertised as the CM face of poll bound-state Kerala, where assembly elections will be held in single phase on April 6. His step is a courageous one, especially in view of the fact that the BJP has only one MLA in Kerala and therefore still far away from capturing power in that state.
As there is no retirement age in Indian politics and people tend to be around till 80. Manmohan Singh was 81 when he left the PM’s office. Vajpayee was 80 in 2004. But now after 2014, the rule of 75 operates in the BJP, which has to be deliberately removed or relaxed by the party so that favourites and popular, who can keep the party ruling for few more terms, can make it to the eligibile age criteria.
Another exception was seen when BJP’s age rule was kept at bay for Yediyurappa, who was appointed Chief Minister of Karnataka even though he was over 75. His appointment was deemed unavoidable as nobody else could fill the post.
After Yediyurappa’s appointment, some people had argued the decision citing that the rule applies only at the Centre and not to the provinces. In 2014, before Modi became Prime Minister, a rumour was deliberately spread that BJP member above the age of 75 would not be considered eligible for a ministerial berth in the new government which was sure to be formed after the elections. It is to be mentioned that the 75-year rule was not made by the BJP through any institutional process. As there was no age limit for contesting the Lok Sabha elections, so the likes of LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi were allowed to run with the clear understanding that no ministerial posts would come their way. They won their constituencies and spent a lacklustre five years in parliament until they were finally retired in 2019 by the powers-that-be.
A same dispensable rule had come years ago, when Modi was not yet the master of the party, the BJP decided that like the Left parties, it would also limit the term of its members in Rajya Sabha to two. The rule was used to deny a third term to the likes of Arun Shourie and Shatrughan Sinha. But interestingly, when the circumstances changed and the turn of the rule-makers themselves came, the rule was revised again and not three but even a fourth term was given to these occupants.
Given to the nature of these dispensable and short-lived rules, it seems like Sreedharan and Modi still have a chance, as far as the age bar notwithstanding.