KATHMANDU, Jan 26: While the government's latest decision to reduce the eligibility age for the elderly allowance suggests that citizens above 65 are not up to any income-generating work and deserve protection under the state's social security policy, a majority of leaders holding key posts in major political parties and in recent governments fall into this age group.
Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, former prime ministers K P Oli, Jhala Nath Khanal and Madhav Kumar Nepal, NC leader Ram Chandra Paudel and others holding key positions in major parties including Nepali Congress (NC), CPN-UML, CPN (Maoist Center) and the Madhes-based parties are all sexagenarians or more.
UML chief K P Oli took a dig at Deuba on Thursday, stating that the prime minister was eligible for the elderly allowance even without lowering the eligible age. Born in June 1946, Deuba is already 71. Key Madhesi leader Mahantha Thakur is 70. People above 70 are eligible for the elderly allowance as per the existing provision.
NC senior leader and former speaker Ram Chandra Paudel is 73 years old. Another NC leader and Deputy Prime Minister in the Deuba government Gopal Man Shrestha is 71. NC influential leader Krishna Sitaula is 68 while many-times former finance minister Ram Sharan Mahat is 67.
Incumbent Deputy Prime Ministers Bijay Kumar Gachchhadar of NC and Kamal Thapa, who is also chairman of Rastriya Prajatantra Party, will be eligible for the elderly allowance in the next two years as per the government's latest decision.
After NC, the CPN-UML, which has emerged as the largest political party in the recent elections, has the most older leaders.
Some UML leaders including Jhala Nath Khanal, Madhav Kumar Nepal, Bamdev Gautam and Subas Nembang, who have been projected as future candidates for president, are all above 65. UML Vice Chairman Bam Dev Gautam is 69; Khanal is 68, and Nepal and Nembang are running 65. UML General Secretary Ishwar Pokhrel is turning 65 next year and Vice Chairman Bhim Rawal after two years.
CPN (Maoist Center) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal is comparatively younger at 63 while another leader from his party, Dinanath Sharma, is 73.
Former prime minister Baburam Bhattarai is 63, while Rastriya Janamorcha Chairman Chitra Bahadur KC is still active at 77. Chairman of Nepal Workers Peasants Party Narayan Man Bijukchhe didn't contest the recent polls. He has turned 78.
How old are our leaders?
Sher Bahadur Deuba -71
Pushpa Kamal Dahal -63
K P Oli - 66
Baburam Bhattarai- 63
Jhal Nah Khanal- 68
Madhav Nepal- 65
Ram Chandra Paudel- 73
Bam Dev Gautam-69
Subas Nembang- 65
Sita Devi Yadav-62
Krishna Sitaula -68
Gopal Man Shrestha -71
Ram Saran Mahat -67
Chitra Bahadur KC-77
Kamal Thapa -63
Dinanath Sharma -73
Mahantha Thakur -70