According to the 22nd Amendment of the US Constitution, a person can be elected as the US President only twice. The need for this amendment arose when Franklin D. Roosevelt won elections four times and this gave rise to concerns over unlimited terms a president could serve. France and Mexico have adopted similar provisions.
India has seen leaders who have occupied office for almost 25 years. Pawan Kumar Chamling, Jyothi Basu, Gegong Apang, Lal Thanhawla, Naveen Patnaik, Prakash Singh Badal, Karunanidhi and many other leaders have served for almost two decades.
The major advantage of changing this system is that it could encourage a change in policymaking. Stopping the practice of unlimited terms helps in involving new generations in policymaking. This allows for fresh ideas and healthy competition, strengthening democracy. A new crop of leaders are also less likely to manipulate elections. Individuals cannot become, no matter how necessary, indispensable.
This country has leaders like Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu, who are considered the youngest chief ministers in India. They took office for the first time when they were 45 and 37 years respectively.
That is basically when people enter the stage of passiveness and when a middle-class person starts planning for retirement. When we have leaders who take office for 15-20 years, it decreases the opportunity for a young mind to be a part of shaping the country.
Due to decades of experiences, people tend to become calmer and passive. That is not what you want for a developing and transforming nation.
Young leaders do not flourish due to long terms
We are living in a nation where most of the leaders are already 60 — the current retirement age — by the time they take office for the first time. This not only affects the quality of decision making but also the physical and mental health of the leaders. Integrity, learning agility, self-awareness and courage decrease for most people by the time they enter into middle age.
There are only a few young leaders in our nation and most of them got that power due to their predecessor’s death, health issues or because they wanted to go to higher positions. India practically has not seen strong, young leaders who rose to power due to their skill.
Most of the strong leaders get suppressed due to long terms of most politicians. Imagine the situation of the second strongest leader after the incumbent. In case a person holds office for 20 years (which is very common), the second strongest, by the time gets power, is already around 50. This shows the direct link between long terms and suppressing young people from taking office.
Young leaders are necessary, especially to India since 65 per cent of our population is below 35 years and yet only 6 per cent of our ministers and leaders are below 35 years.
We need more people to understand the ideas and trends of this 65 per cent population. With the increasing use of technology in all aspects of lives, people who are raised in the tech-based generation are necessary to make better policies.
To strengthen our democracy, we need a constitutional mandate to limit the terms of heads of state and country. This solves the problem of improving decision-making and allows for the emergence of new leadership. From tackling environment issues to reforming laws due to technology, India needs young leaders.
Elluri Srinitha Reddy is a student of Chirec International School, Hyderabad