Despite apprehensions voiced by some leaders, the Communist Party of India (CPI) has decided to go ahead and implement the decision taken by the national council to make an upper age limit for party posts mandatory. The introduction of this age-cap criteria from the central leadership to the grassroots is to give more representation to the youth, women, Dalits and backward classes in the party.
The national council guidelines state that party members above 75 years cannot be part of the state council or executive, while 65 years is the upper age limit for district secretaries. For years, the CPI has had silver-haired politicians at the helm running the affairs of the party.
Under these new guidelines, which detractors claim has been copied from the CPM, senior leaders like C Divakaran and K E Ismayil may find themselves out in the cold. All party committees should have at least 50 per cent young people, who should not have crossed 40 years. Lower level committees have been instructed to implement the decision to coincide with the upcoming party conference.
The party’s supplementary organisations like the All India Youth Federation (AIYF) and the All India Students Federation are also expected to adhere to this age criteria. This will then require people who enroll as members to AIYF to not be above 40 years, while in the case of AISF, only students studying in campuses will be allowed to become office-bearers.
To bring in more women into leadership positions, the party has mandated for 15 per cent quota in the party’s state and district councils.
This new policy has been criticised by many members, who feel making age criteria mandatory is against party norms and anti-Communist. They say it’s not about age, but about efficiency. The bottom line is that several seniors of the party will find themselves jettisoned from leadership positions. The party is also accused of blindly following in the footsteps of the CPM.
However, though CPM had come out with the idea to implement the Generation Next policy and have 75 years as a cut-off mark for its members to join party committees, the CPI decided to pursue it at all levels of the party.
Though members have opposed this new age-cap policy at the party’s state council, the CPI state leadership has made it clear that the party will not backtrack on this issue. The recommendations by the national council had been ratified by the state council and there will be no going back on its decision.
The new age limits for the CPI national and state council is 75 years; for state assistant secretaries, one person should be below 65 and the other person should be under 50 years; the district mandalam secretaries should not be above 65 years of age, while the district assistant secretaries should have one person below 60 years and the other should not be above 40 years.
In the case of committee members, a person can continue as a member of a party committee till they turn 75 years. However, when new committees come up at the constituency and state levels, then half the number of members on the committee should be below 40 years of age.