Kolkata, Dec 10 (IANS): As the Trinamool Congress’ National General Secretary and Lok Sabha member Abhishek Banerjee, once again raised his voice in support of fixing the upper age limit for different administrative, parliamentary, legislative and political posts, he seems to have opened a Pandora’s Box in the party
“Like in all other professions, there should also be an upper age limit for politicians. I know that the presence of veterans and seniors is necessary within a party due to their experience, but there should be an upper age limit,” Abhishek Banerjee said on December 5.
He added that since politics involves working 24x7, it is not possible for someone to do that after a certain age.
Abhishek Banerjee’s observations have sparked speculation that he was hinting towards the necessity of replacing certain sitting party Lok Sabha members in the 2024 general elections. Hence, his remarks have led to murmurs of dissent with his point of view in party circles.
The first to counter Abhishek Banerjee’s observations on the issue was the state Municipal Affairs & Urban Development Minister and Kolkata Municipal Corporation Mayor Firhad Hakim, who pointed out that political life was different from professional life.
“The only thing that matters is the candidate’s acceptability among the electorate and not age. Just as Abhishek Banerjee is the fittest candidate for the Diamond Harbour Lok Sabha constituency, similarly someone else might be the fittest candidate for any other party. I am middle-aged now and soon I will become a senior citizen. Similarly, those who are young now will reach middle-age tomorrow,” Hakim said.
Hakim also raised the issue of ‘one person, one post’, which had been brought up by Abhishek Banerjee many times earlier. “There are various opinions on the matter within the party. But ultimately, only our supreme leader and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will take the final decision on this and we all will abide by that. There is scope for further discussion in the matter within the party. And what I have to say, I will say that within the party only,” said Hakim.
However, the Trinamool Congress’ state spokesman Kunal Ghosh countered Hakim in no time on both the issues of ‘upper age limit’ and ‘one person, one post.’
According to Ghosh, while the experience of the veterans was absolutely necessary for the party, it was also true that if the veterans did not make way for the new generation, after a point of time there was every reason for the latter to get frustrated.
Ghosh was more direct in targeting Hakim on the issue of ‘one person, one post’ as the latter holds the twin-posts of state Cabinet Minister and Kolkata Mayor, besides holding several important positions in the party.
“Often, for the sake of administrative efficiency, chief ministers have to take charge of different departments. That is a different thing altogether. But I think that the post of Mayor of Kolkata is a full-time job and hence it is impossible for the person in that chair to handle other assignments in a parallel manner,” said Ghosh.
Veteran Trinamool Congress leader and three-time Lok Sabha member Saugata Roy, who is already 76, chose to counter Ghosh’s comments by citing a recent observation by Mamata Banerjee on the “age” issue.
According to him, there cannot be a straight jacket formula directly linking the performance of a politician with his/her age. “It is not necessarily true that a politician loses his performance capability after a certain age. In fact the chief minister herself observed recently that age means nothing as it is all in the mind only,” Roy said.
Political observers are of the opinion that this ongoing debate within the Trinamool Congress is bound to get more heated unless the chief minister intervenes and spells out her party’s official stand on the issues being raked up.
Observers say that these issues, if not resolved soon, have the potential to turn nasty next year over the selection of candidates for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls and then over the growing grievances of leaders and their followers being denied nominations.