Age no bar for Cab­i­net 2016: PM junks much-touted age cri­te­rion

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - Ku­mar Ut­tam let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

When Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi left out a string of BJP stal­warts from his cab­i­net af­ter as­sum­ing power in 2014, gov­ern­ment spin doc­tors said age was not on the side of lead­ers such as LK Ad­vani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Yash­want Sinha.

De­spite no for­mal an­nounce­ment, BJP sources told the me­dia that all of them were more than 75 years old and were un­suit­able in a gov­ern­ment fo­cused on the youth.

“All those above 75 were de­clared brain dead on May 26, 2014,” a caus­tic Sinha said later.

But two years later, Modi ap­pears to have junked the muchtouted age cri­te­rion, favour­ing po­lit­i­cal con­ve­nience and bal­anc­ing caste and re­gion con­sid­er­a­tions ahead of cru­cial state polls.

In the re­cent cab­i­net reshuf­fle, mi­nor­ity af­fairs min­is­ter Na­jma Hep­tulla, 76, and small and medium scale in­dus­tries min­is­ter Kal­raj Mishra, 75, were widely ex­pected to be dropped but re­tained their seats.

There has been no of­fi­cial word on why they were re­tained. “There are some ob­vi­ous rea­sons. There are someother­sthatwee­ven­don’tknow of,” a source who was part of the de­lib­er­a­tion told HT. “The PM didn’t ex­plain it to us nor did we ask him.”

But ex­perts said Mishra was re­tained with an eye on polls in Ut­tar Pradesh next year. The 76-year-old is the BJP’s tallest leader among the Brah­mins and drop­ping him would have hurt the party among the cru­cial com­mu­nity that is be­ing wooed by ri­val Bahu­jan Sa­maj Party. “One min­is­te­rial berth is not as im­por­tant as the per­cep­tion that drop­ping Mishra might have had cre­ated. Our ri­vals could have had used this to their ad­van­tage,” a BJP functionary said.

Kal­raj Mishra (left) and Na­jma Hep­tulla:

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