CPM politburo member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said on Wednesday that 75 would be the upper age limit for members picked to party committees, from central to district. He was inaugurating the Vanchiyoor area committee meeting held in Thiruvananthapuram.
It was already announced that the maximum age ceiling for the central committee members would be reduced to 75 from the existing 80. It was also speculated that the upper limit for the members of state and district committees, where relatively junior comrades would be placed, would be even lower. In fact, one of the recommendations made by the Kerala CPM unit was that the upper age limit for state committee members should be drawn down to 65 from the existing 75.
The radical makeover of the second Pinarayi ministry - the dropping of performers and hugely popular leaders like K K Shylaja, T M Thomas Isaac and K Sudhakaran and the introduction of young largely inexperienced faces like Riyas and Veena George - was seen as a sign that the CPM was intent on drastically altering the composition of the party.
Given this context, Kodiyeri's remark that the upper age limit for state and district committees would be 75 is a bit of a let down. This is proof that the CPM was still not willing to let go of its veterans.
As it stands, the revised age limit will not unsettle senior leaders in the central committee. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who is 76, will be given exemption. The other Kerala leaders over 75 in the central committee are S Ramachandran Pillai and P Karunakaran. They will have to vacate their places. According to sources, like V S Achuthanandan, they could be accommodated as special invitees.
However, it is estimated that 10-15% of the members that constitute lower level committees are above the age of 75. Major changes are in the offing. At least two new additions to the local and area committees should be below the age of 40. There will be more young faces in the district and state committees as well.
It was the Kolkata party plenum in 2015 that mooted a comprehensive top-down change in age composition. The plenum had concluded that the composition of young members (31 years and below) was not satisfactory or poor in a number of states. "If this category is below 20% of the total membership i.e. at least one-fifth of the total, it should be considered as not satisfactory," the plenum document said. However, even then the proportion of youth in Kerala was 22.7%.