Accepting retirement needs courage and one must be able to read between the lines.

During the last month, Congress President Sonia Gandhi stepped down from the post and hinted at her retirement. She turned 71 on December 9, 2017. As the front face of the Indian National Congress family, she led the party from 1998 and played a vital role in all its affairs. Now, she took a commendable decision to stop and decided to hand over the affairs to Rahul Gandhi.

This decision has once again brought one question into the limelight, should politicians’ voluntarily retire and make way for the young leaders?

Perhaps, late Nanaji Deshmukh can prove to be a relevant example. Often referred as Chanakya of politics during his era, Deshmukh was one of the chief architects of the Janata Party. After turning 60, he decided to move away from mainstream electoral politics and entirely focused on constructive, social work in the field of education and health. Such examples are rare in the Indian politics.

Around 70 percent of our country’s population is below the age of 40. However, 80 percent of the politicians who decide the country’s fate are more than 70 years of age.  I don’t wish to criticize anyone in this write-up, but one must think and decide where to hit the stop button.

Today’s cultural climate needs ideas, ideals, and views of the younger generation of leaders

Former President Pranab Mukherjee took over as President when he was 77. Manmohan Singh was 72 when he became country’s prime minister in 2004.

L.K. Advani has reached 90, while NCP Chief Sharad Pawar turned 77 on December 12, 2017.

From working as the party president, to helping Vajpayee as country’s deputy prime minister and home minister, Advani has achieved a lot in his political journey. But, his current eagerness for more is something that makes me feel disappointed. Same is the case with former Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar. Even at the age of 77, he’s willing to come on the street to agitate.

Manohar Joshi, the former chief minister of Maharashtra, is 80, while senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi is 83. However, both are very much active and struggling to remain stationed in politics. Himachal Pradesh’s former chief minister Virbhadra Singh is 83, still wants to rule the state.  Tamil Nadu’s M. Karunanidhi is 93 years old, but still active in politics.

Almost all political outfits have elderly individuals occupying the top spots, but the numbers are high in left parties. CPI’s Harkishan Singh Surjeet was active in politics until his death in the 92nd year of life.

Tony Blair became Britain’s Prime Minister when he was 43, while Bill Clinton became American President at the age of 46. However, in India, except for Rajiv Gandhi, almost every prime minister was 60 plus when he or she took the oath.

No doubt, veterans have the experience, but this cannot be of much use without the dynamism of youth. Plus, at times, the behavior of these aged individuals can prove to be a problem.

S. Achuthanandan, A. R. Antulay, Digvijaya Singh, Yashwant Sinha and Mani Shankar Aiyar are some of the examples. Their behavior has caused trouble for their party.

Older generation must make way for the young ones

Chanakya’s teachings suggest Kings should find and train their heir during their rule. Handing over all the responsibilities to the heir and accepting retirement can prove to be beneficial for the king as well as the public. Of course, Chanakya’s era was a period of dictatorship, but his teachings about retirement are relevant for politicians in a democracy.

Take Sachin Tendulkar’s example from cricket.  Before Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement, some of his fans had turned into his critics. When Sachin took more than a year and multiple innings after 99th international century, to complete his 100th century, several legends, including Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, and Sourav Ganguly advised him to consider retiring from cricket.

Accepting retirement is an art; it is not always possible for everyone. It takes timeliness, courage and one must be able to read between the lines. The elderly should pass on their knowledge and rich experience to the young leaders. ‘Temptation for more’ can cause damage to their hard-earned reputation.

Anyway, the country’s young generation would appreciate if other senior leaders take a cue from Sonia Gandhi and make way for the next generation. Hope former Congress President Sonia Gandhi enjoys a healthy and happy retired life.

This article was published on Max Maharashtra in Marathi as part of "Joshin che Tasika" article series. Written by Aniruddha Joshi in Marathi language, it has been translated by Nitten Gokhaley in English.