I have been complaining for some time that politicians in Nepal never seem to retire until the time that they are at the Arya Ghat. Hearing my views, a friend countered me by saying that leaders in the developing countries usually reached the desired position after having borne many knocks of a hostile community. Another pointed out to me that Konrad Adenauer became the Chancellor of Post War Federal Republic Western Germany in 1949 at the ripe of age of 73 and did well for his country.
My enthusiasm for young leaders is because of my admiration for young political personages of the USA, viz. John F Kennedy, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, all three of whom came to the helm of affairs at the ages of 43, 46 and 47 respectively. There was euphoria and hope for the future when they started their terms of office. The active and lively children of these presidents running around the White House occasionally created newspaper headlines. Unfortunately the first's term was cut short by tragedy, the second's ended almost in ignominy whilst that of the third has just been completed without any whiffs of scandal. His rating by the public has been at 60%, the highest attained to date of recent presidents of the US. In the case of England, Pitt the Younger became a minister at the age of 24. His first term as PM lasted eighteen years and his second only two, prior to his death at 47 years. Another youngster who succeeded and conquered half the world before he died at 33 was Alexander the Great. He directed that when he was being buried his hands should be open palm upwards, thereby showing that he was taking nothing. Was this all in accordance with ‘God loves those who die young'?
On recollecting the past, one realises that in both Russia and China, it was generally elderly leaders who came to power and held on till death took them to another realm. The trend is changing in these countries too, for leaders are usually middle aged when they succeed to power. In Russia, Putin who has now emerged as solo in charge has had to interchange periodically, being president and prime minister in conformity to existing laws in the country.
The recent election of Donald Trump has been a watershed of sorts in America. A nearly 70 year old, who has four grownup children and a ten years old son, is now the oldest and richest to become a President of the USA. This boy, accompanied by his father's grandchildren, will be romping around in the White House grounds. Yes the elder leaders are the norm again.
The coming of Trump has heralded a change of guard and as one listens to his speeches, he seems poised to make changes. His battle cry of making the duration of service of senators and representatives to be restricted to two terms of office also reflects his feeling that the Washington politicians look after their own interests rather than the interest of country's citizens who elected them. Whether President Trump will succeed in his campaign to cut the politicians to size is another matter for the simple fact is that the Senate and the House of Representatives are not likely to pass such laws. It is tantamount to striking at one's own legs and so will never be implemented. Another group of Oldies existing as a permanent fixture in the USA and ruling the roost are the justices of the Supreme Court? Once appointed it is for life, irrespective of whether one is able to continue to function in this post as one goes over ninety years towards becoming a centurion! It seems a funny sort of rule and one must wait to see if Trump tackles this with his clarion cry of "Make America Great Again".
What is a good practice in America is that there are always some queries and assurances sought on health matters of would be leaders at the time that they vie for office. Whilst 100% surety in such matters is never possible, it lessens the prospect of having as leaders' persons who drain state resources for their health care even when they can personally afford it! This is a practice we ought to immediately copy and implement in Nepal.
We have reached a stage when we can say that old is definitely not always gold. However in these days when everyone seems to be hankering after gold one has sometimes to resort to the old saying, 'All that glitters is not gold''. Have our old leaders failed to achieve anything for Nepal? Are their deeds only in self interest and not for the country? Surely they cannot take with them all that they have acquired in their lifetimes when they die? Sadly, the young leaders when given ministries have not been up to the mark.
Though Nepal is a place where gold seems to be smuggled in from all directions, and is said to be freely available, the average person may only be able to bemoan and cry out, " Tara Mero Kaan Bucho'. The fact remains that even after the ushering in of 'Democracy, Nationalism, Republican order, Secularism, Federalism' and what not, it is the politicians of our land who are putting into practice such trends and rules that suits their purposes. The ministries, the secretarial posts, the ambassadorships, the university appointments and everything are divided as per the strengths and proportions of the parties is in power. We the people are dumb spectators.
It is all a matter of chance whether our leaders will be young or old. We flip up the coin at election time and have to accept up what comes facing up. It seems that for all these years we in Nepal are having a streak of bad luck.
The author writes fiction under the name of Mani Dixit. Website: www.hdixit.org.np. Twitter: @manidixithd