Thiruvananthapuram: Should politicians retire at a specific age? The answer is a resounding yes to go by the buzz among students, young professionals and businessmen here following a Supreme Court verdict disqualifying convicted politicians.
"Yes, by all means, a retirement age should be fixed in electoral politics and the sooner it is done the better it is," said A. Harris, a medical professional. He said that dementia and brain-related atrophy (wasting or decrease in size) are quite common among older people.
The Supreme Court ruled last month that lawmakers convicted by a court of law would lose their membership even if their appeals to a higher court were pending. They would also be barred from contesting elections for six years. Rajya Sabha MP Rashid Masood (Congress) was the first to go after he was held guilty of graft, followed by former railway minister Lalu Prasad, who was held guilty of siphoning off government money.
J. Muraleedharan, who works at the Centre for Development Studies here, however argued that politics is not a profession, but a service. Hence, age is not an issue if one is medically and physically fit.
All government officials retire at 56 years in the state, while the public sector employees retire at 58 and the central government employees at 60 years.
"When there is a retirement age for all other sections of society, a retirement age should be certainly fixed for politicians. We see the same faces again and again," said G.S Vivek, a professional college student.
"A change is always welcome," he said.
Congress legislator P.C Vishnunadh differed and said those who think a retirement age should be set in electoral politics do not understand a politician's career.
"This is not a 9 a.m to 5 p.m job. You need to have the highest levels of social commitment," he said.
"Only apolitical minds can have such thoughts. If there were such restrictions, V.S Achuthanandan, at present leader of the opposition in the Kerala assembly, who is turning 90 years later this month, would have never become chief minister (2006-11)," he said.
T Mridula, an IT professional, said that experienced politicians should hold an advisory role and stay away from active politics.
"The experience of the veterans and the dynamism of youth should both be used productively. It can be achieved by setting a retirement age for electoral politics," he said.
Kerala Assembly chief whip P.C George agreed that an age of retirement from electoral politics should be fixed.
"I feel the minimum age for contesting should be 30 years and the maximum age should be 75. In today's fast-paced life, a representative of the people should be able to move quick and grasp things quickly," he said.
K.J. Abraham, a businessman, opined that there should be a mechanism in all political parties to field a certain percentage of their candidates from youth.
In Kerala politics, among the oldest legislators are Finance Minister K.M Mani, 80, who has been a legislator since 1967. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who turns 70 later this month, has been a legislator since 1970.