Hindustan Times (Jalandhar)

Amid youth push, BJP list also leans on experience as party stretches age limit

- Smriti Kak Ramachandr­an letters@hindustant­imes.com (with inputs from Akshita Kumari)

In 2019, TR Paarivendh­ar won the Perambalur Lok Sabha constituen­cy with a stunning margin of over 400,000 votes, having contested on the DMK’s symbol against AIADMK’s N R Sivapathi.

The victory was sweeter, because Paarivendh­ar had contested and lost his first Lok Sabha election from the same constituen­cy in 2014 as the candidate for the Bharatiya-Janata Party led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

Founder of the Indiya Jananayaka Katchi (IJK), which is now part of the NDA, Paarivendh­ar is contesting from Perambalur for the third time in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, this time, again, as the NDA candidate. His frequent party hopping is not the only thing that sets him apart.

At 82, he along with 78-year old Ranjit Chautala from Haryana and 75-year old Hema Malini, the contestant from Uttar Pradesh’s Mathura is among the very few candidates who have edged past the BJP’s unofficial age limit of 75 for contesting polls. It has never been articulate­d, but party insiders insist that there is a rule, albeit, one proved by exceptions.

Chautala who is the BJP’s candidate from Hisar, is an independen­t MLA and son of former deputy PM Devi Lal. He was part of the BJP-JJP alliance government in the state and chose to switch sides to the BJP recently. He has been a member of the Indian National Lok Dal, the Janata Dal, the Indian National Congress and had a previous stint with the BJP. Hema Malini, a popular actor is a two-term MP from Mathura and is hoping for a third straight win.

Even as the BJP has opted to give preference to younger and newer faces, the party has not quite ignored age and experience. There are at least 20 leaders who are between the ages of 70-74, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is 73 and Union defence minister Rajnath Singh, who is 72. Others who are above 70 include AC Shanamugam, 74, the candidate from Vellore; former Union minister Radha Mohan Singh, 74 from Purvi Champaran in Bihar ; Kripashank­ar Singh, 74 from Jaunpur in Uttar Pradesh ; Pon. Radhakrish­nan,72 from Kanniyakum­ari in Tamil Nadu ; and Bishnu Pada Ray, 74 from Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

“Many factors are considered while deciding the candidate. Age, experience, political clout, caste are some of the key factors. It has been the party’s policy since 2014 to encourage younger people and ease the seniors to a more advisory role, but some exceptions have been made considerin­g some factors,” said a senior party leader, who asked not to be named.

Citing the example of Malini and Paariveend­har, the leader added: “Her (Malini’s ) record as a parliament­arian was good, she has spent money on the developmen­t of the constituen­cy...and has a clean image. Similarly, Paarivendh­ar is from Udaiyar community, that has a lot of clout in the area, which will help the party.”

In 2019, the absence of veterans LK Advani, then 91, and MM Joshi, then 85, from the list of candidates was perceived as a sign of the party pushing for a generation­al shift. Both are part of BJP’s Margdarsha­k Mandal.

This is not the first time that the party has set aside the unwritten age rule. In the Madhya Pradesh state polls, the party fielded senior leaders including Nagendra Singh, 80 from the Nagodin Satna and Nagendra Singh, 79 from Gurh in Rewa.

The average age of MPs in the 17th Lok Sabha was 54 years, with 12% of MPs below the age of 40. In 16th Lok Sabha, the average age was 55.46 years and 8% of MPs were below 40 years.

 ?? ?? Ranjit Chautala and Hema Malini are among the few names who have edged past BJP’s unofficial age limit of 75.
Ranjit Chautala and Hema Malini are among the few names who have edged past BJP’s unofficial age limit of 75.

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