BJP age criterion: Madhya Pradesh was the first state where ministers were dropped because of age | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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BJP age criterion: Madhya Pradesh was the first state where ministers were dropped because of age

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May 13, 2024 09:19 PM IST

“The Union home minister Amit Shah or for that matter the BJP can’t take refuge in the party’s constitution that there is no 75-plus rule...”

Former state public health engineering (PHE) minister Kusum Mehdele, now 80, recalls how she was denied a ticket in the 2018 assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh on the ground that she had crossed the age limit as per the party’s formula to contest polls despite the fact, as she says, she was much active in politics.

Senior BJP leaders LK Advani was 86-year-old, and Murli Manohar Joshi, 80, when they contested their last Lok Sabha polls in 2014.(PTI Photo) PREMIUM
Senior BJP leaders LK Advani was 86-year-old, and Murli Manohar Joshi, 80, when they contested their last Lok Sabha polls in 2014.(PTI Photo)

Mehdele was the sitting MLA from Panna assembly constituency in Bundelkhand region and minister in the then Shivraj Singh Chouhan cabinet when she was dropped as the party candidate and replaced by Brijendra Pratap Singh, younger than Mehdele, for the polls.

She was not considered for the party ticket even for the 2023 assembly polls that BJP won with a massive mandate.

When contacted by Hindustan Times in the backdrop of Union home minister Amit Shah’s statement he made on Saturday reacting to Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s comment about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tenure, Mehdele said it was the party’s decision (to deny ticket to her) and she had to abide by it.

“What do I say? I was very active when I was denied the party ticket. Jinko hatana tha hata diya (Those who were to be removed were removed). However, I was not alone. Several others too were dropped like me on the grounds of age,” said Mehdele.

Soon after his release from jail late last week, Kejriwal said since BJP had introduced a rule for its leaders not to hold any post after the age of 75, Modi would step down the next year and Shah would replace him in case the party retains power.

On this, Shah said there was no such provision in the BJP’s constitution and that Modi would complete his tenure after the 2024 polls.

Earlier cases

Mehdele turned 75 on August 15, 2018, months before the state assembly polls. She was, however, allowed to continue as minister for a few months until the elections unlike the then state Home minister Babulal Gaur and the PWD minister Sartaj Singh who were also dropped from the cabinet because of age.

Then CM Chouhan’s decision to expand the state cabinet on June 30, 2016, was preceded by Gaur and Sartaj Singh tendering their resignations from the state cabinet but not without lodging their protest and causing commotion in the party.

In fact, Gaur even caused a flutter in the party and the government by refusing to obey the party’s decision to resign from the state cabinet, asking the party leaders to tell him what his mistake was.

It took some effort from senior leaders of the party both in Bhopal and Delhi to convince the two ministers to follow the party leadership’s instructions to resign from the state cabinet. The then national general secretary (organisation) Ramlal had to step in; The then state BJP president Nandkumar Singh Chauhan also met the two leaders to convince them about the party’s decision, recalled a senior leader of the party, who asked not to be named, as he was not authorised to speak to the media.

Gaur and Singh, party veterans, later boycotted the swearing-in ceremony of the newly inducted ministers at Raj Bhavan; both leaders are no more now.

“I couldn’t believe that age could be a factor to drop me from the state cabinet. This is not done in any political party,” Sartaj Singh had said to the media persons after his resignation on June 30, 2016.

Also read: Is 75-year retirement rule only for other BJP leaders and not Modi?: Kejriwal to PM

Similar cases at the Central level

The Madhya Pradesh episode was followed at the Centre too when the then minority affairs minister Najma Heptullah resigned from the cabinet in July 2016 just a day before she was to turn 76. Heptulla cited personal reasons behind her decision to put in her papers. The then union minister Kalraj Mishra who turned 76 on July 1, 2017, resigned from the cabinet in September that year.

As per a second BJP leader, who also asked not to be named, Mishra, a prominent Brahmin leader from Uttar Pradesh, was spared for a year after he turned 75 due to the state assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh in 2017.

Mishra who had crossed the 75, known to be the unofficial cut-off age to retire, had said after his resignation that performance was not the reason behind his decision to resign and that he had left the decision to the leadership.

Mishra is presently the governor of Rajasthan; Heptullah was the governor of Manipur from July 2019 to August 2021.

Coming back to Madhya Pradesh, Mehdele, Guar and Sartaj Singh both were denied tickets in the 2018 state assembly polls. The BJP leadership tried to mollify a belligerent Gaur ahead of polls by fielding his daughter-in-law Krishna Gaur in his place in the elections; She is a minister of state in the current Mohan Yadav cabinet.

Advani, Joshi and Sumitra Mahajan

The BJP national leaders including former deputy PM LK Advani, former union HRD minister Murali Manohar Joshi and former Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan were denied party tickets in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Advani was 86-year-old, Joshi, 80, and Mahajan,71, when they contested their last Lok Sabha polls in 2014.

Political analyst Girija Shankar said: “It’s a fact that the age bar provision is not a part of the BJP’s constitution but it’s also a fact that several party leaders were either dropped from the union cabinet or denied party tickets because of the party’s 75-plus unofficial formula. However, the party leadership then didn’t realise that this formula would bounce back on it one day in future.”

Shankar added: “Arvind Kejriwal is a shrewd politician. The BJP leaders often asked who was INDIA bloc’s PM face but now Kejriwal has asked who the BJP’s PM face is. This has created a flutter in the BJP camp more because he has claimed that Amit Shah will replace Modi after the latter turns 75.”

Political analyst Dinesh Gupta said, “The Union home minister Amit Shah or for that matter, the BJP can’t take refuge in the party’s constitution that there is no 75-plus rule particularly when a number of senior party leaders including LK Advani, Murali Manohar Joshi, Sumitra Mahajan, Kalraj Mishra, Najma Heptulla, Babulal Gaur, Sartaj Singh etc were shown the door based on the unofficial formula. Now, the entire country is looking at the PM if he will apply his own formula on himself.”

Rajneesh Agrawal, state BJP secretary, said that after Shah’s statement, there’s nothing else to comment on the issue. “The Home minister's statement has left nothing to say for us on the issue.”

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