Emphasising that politicians should choose the “timing of their own exit” instead of being forced out, former Union law minister and Rajya Sabha member Ashwani Kumar has said there should be a “cut-off age” for remaining in electoral politics.
“I can say politicians should choose the timing of their own exit rather than being pushed away. And having had the satisfaction of doing all that I wanted to do, I would be happy to walk into the sunset at any time,” he told The Indian Express.
Responding to the controversy fuelled by Union minister Jairam Ramesh when he said politicians above 70 should be accommodated in “advisory positions”, Kumar said, “I have myself held a view that after a particular age, politicians should avoid electoral politics. Their services could be used by parties in many other ways.” He also said there was a need within the Congress to “ensure internal saboteurs are kept at bay and honest difference of opinion is not allowed to be suppressed in the name of party discipline”.
Kumar, 61, expressed regret at the “lows” to which the level of political discourse in the country had sunk in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls, saying all parties are responsible for making “shrill”, “personalised” and “ hurtful” remarks as well as “untenable allegations” against political rivals. He said it was important to ensure political debate was anchored on “governance and developmental issues”.
On his own party’s attacks on BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi over the 2002 Gujarat riots and Finance Minister P Chidambaram’s remarks about “deep character flaws” in Modi, Kumar said, “The fact that when the massacres took place, Mr Narendra Modi was CM of Gujarat cannot be denied. As far as references to individuals in terms of their character are concerned, I would probably not have said that.”
“But the fact is personalised attacks on very untenable basis is owed largely to the Opposition,” he added.
Kumar, who resigned as law minister last year after coming under fire for vetting the CBI report on coal block allocations, said it had become difficult for politicians working under harsh media glare.
“It is very very unfair to wreck and mar hard-earned political careers over years of service merely on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations. I am, therefore happy, that my party has chosen to give the ticket to Mr Pawan Bansal and others, because the principle that a person is presumed to be innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law, has to be protected,” he said.
About his own resignation, Kumar said, “All I can say, in good conscience with my head held high, that not a single word has been said against me by the Supreme Court. I was never the coal minister, I made no allotments and in the present state of the law, as per the transaction of business rules, the CBI can consult nobody other than the Law Ministry on legal matters. I believe as the law minister, it was my remit to advice all departments of the government, including the CBI.”
On the future of the Congress under party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, he said, “I think his commitment to affirmative action, to ensure empowerment of the marginalised is the only way for this country to go forward.”