Lok Sabha elections 2019 will witness history of sorts as many political stalwarts have decided to hang their boots.
The big names of Indian Politics—Sushma Swaraj and Sharad Pawar—will not be in the election fray. There was speculation that former President of Indian National Congress Sonia Gandhi may consider not to contest elections on health grounds. However, the party has announced her name in the first list released a few days ago.
Sushma Swaraj who has been contesting elections since 1977 has decided not to contest elections because of her ill-health. A welcome move, claimed her husband Swaraj Kaushal on Twitter, “This marathon has been on since 1977—that is 41 years. You have contested 11 direct elections. In fact, you contested all elections held since 1977 except twice, when the party did not allow you to contest."
The veteran is known for her oratorical skills, and is considered one of the best of the women politicians who emerged from the Bharatiya Janta Party. Swaraj (66) carved her own identity as she handled diverse administrative and political assignments.
Two of her political statements that created quite a stir are still talked about. One of these was when Sonia Gandhi contested her first election and the BJP fielded Sushma Swaraj to challenge her. She contested against former Congress President claiming that it is a battle between ‘Foreign Bahu’ and ‘Bharatiya Beti’.
The other was in 2004 when there was a possibility of Sonia becoming the Prime Minister. Swaraj said she would shave her head and wear a white sari if Sonia became Prime Minister. She claimed that she would not let a person of foreign origin head the top post.
Another political bigwig from Maharashtra, Sharad Pawar will be missed in 2019 as he announced his withdrawal after a ‘to be or not to be’. First, he announced in 2014 that he is not going to be in active politics. Then again in February this year he announced that he wants to contest elections. The party convinced Vijay Mohite Patil and specially cleared the deck for him from the Medha Lok Sabha seat.
The 78-year-old contested the Lok Sabha elections 14 times. There were many speculations about his withdrawal. The top reason has remained that the Pawars want their family to be united. Speculations were rife that he is contesting the elections to keep his brother Ajit Pawar’s son Parth Kumar away. However, his withdrawal has put the speculations to rest.
Manmohan Singh, another prominent political face who contested elections only once and lost to the BJP’s VK Malhotra, was persuaded to fight elections from Punjab.
If rumours are to be believed, it is said that Chief Minister of Punjab Captain Amarinder Singh recently met the former Prime Minister to try to convince him to contest elections.
However, Singh refused this offer on grounds of health. There were earlier attempts, too, when he was asked to contest from different Lok-Sabha seats but he refused.
All the withdrawals and controversies surrounding the candidature always make elections a talking point. So many big political names disappearing from the electoral fray make it all the more interesting for keen political observers.
Rumours were also doing the rounds that in the coming Rajya Sabha elections in Assam, the Congress does not have enough numbers to seal Manmohan Singh's re-election. Therefore, the Lok Sabha could have been an option.
Voting for Punjab's 13 Lok Sabha seats will be held on May 19, the last of the seven-phase parliamentary elections. Results will be declared on May 23.
Neerja Chowdhury, a senior journalist and columnist, said while commenting on this political decision, “All of them have their own reason. Age is not the only factor. Sushma Swaraj is not fighting may be because of ill health but Sharad Pawar has his own reason. The family feud was out in the open. And the prime thing was that they were aiming to keep the family together. And there are veterans like Murli Manohar Joshi and Advani who have never said that they will not contest if they are given the tickets. So, it is not actually paving the way for the generation next in real terms”.
Airing similar views political commentator Aarti Jerath said, “Whatever the reason, the Election Commission said that probably we have 15 million first time voters. It is high time that the leadership should also keep pace with fresh and young leaders. However, it is difficult for the veterans to withdraw, as the only thing that they have done in the last 40 years is politics. So, hope more names come up announcing to opt out from the electoral fray”.
There are more politically known names who could contest and drop out. Priya Dutt the crowd puller of Mumbai North Central constituency who earlier decided not to contest the 2019 elections, but may contest as rumors doing the rounds. She claimed that she wants to enjoy other aspects of her life apart from politics. In a statement made before the media, she said after being relieved from her duties as Secretary at the All-India Congress Committee that she does not want to fight the 2019 elections. However, about two days ago, many media reports surfaced that she is reconsidering her decision and may contest but so far no official word from her end.
So far, so good. Hopefully we would witness more names and if not, Lal Krishna Advani of BJP at 91 may be the oldest Lok Sabha candidate in the electoral fray. A different kind of record.