When will Prime Minister Narendra Modi retire? Such a question may seem misplaced at a time when the prime minister is celebrating his 69th birthday. The birthday euphoria is something that has few parallels in recent history. When was the last time a prime minister's birthday was celebrated with such fanfare? Maybe be not since the end of the Nehru era.
At no point in recent history did the question of a prime minister's retirement emerge as a talking point of substantial consequence. When Jawaharlal Nehru led the young India, the people could not imagine anyone else donning that role. His successor Indira Gandhi too ruled people's hearts, but to a lesser extent. At no point did it look like Indira's reign was to continue without any challenge.
There have been many more prime ministers since then, but none had more than a billion people eating out of their hands the way Narendra Modi has done. The outpouring of spontaneous happiness on social media platforms over the prime Minister's birthday proves the strength of the peerless connect Modi has established with India.
Ordinary people call him the 'rockstar prime minister'. He's variously described as a man on a mission, one of the most powerful among the world leaders, the youth icon and a champion of people with the lowly origin. #HappyBdayPMModi just goes to prove that Narendra Modi's resounding election win in May 2019 was not the peak of his popularity. There was indeed more to come.
And that's why netizens are talking about his retirement! "In March-April 2029, at the onset of general elections in normal course, Narendra Modi will be 78.Jyoti Basu was CM till he was 86, Achuthanandan till 88. Manmohan Singh was PM till 82. Just saying. And wishing the PM a long and fulfilling life," wrote influencer Abhijit Majumder.
The numbers in the tweet are loaded. Narendra Modi and Amit Shah are known for enforcing 'retirement' within the party and the government. When senior leaders like LK Advani and Muralimanohar Joshi were moved to the Marganirdeshak Mandal, it was interpreted in some quarters as a high-handed move. Then came more relegations, such as that of former Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, sending a clear signal that retirement post-75 was a rule in the BJP.
So, will PM Modi retire ahead of the next Lok Sabha elections and pass the baton to Amit Shah? Modi will be a few months shy of 74 when the nation goes to the polls next. Or will he continue to lead the government for another five years? That seems to be the more likely scenario. And yet another term? Modi fans might root for it, but Modi the man would give thumbs down to that by any stretch of the imagination.
If Modi were to take another term as prime minister, would that raise moral hurdles? For all we know, he has been championing retirement at 75. But for all you can see from now, the scenario in 2024 would not be similar to the one in 2013 when Modi rode roughshod over LK Advani in the leadership race.
More than 'special fraternal bond'
Is anyone breathing down his neck at this point? There isn't, that's the fact. Amit Shah is the big-bore motor that powers the BJP's march -- everyone is sure about it -- but he doesn't look to be in any hurry to force a vacancy at the top. Why? The reason is bigger than the much bandied out special fraternal bond between Modi and Shah.
Modi and Shah forced a leadership change in 2013 because they represented a clear, forceful ideological break with LK Advani. The two had bargained for a greater pace at which India would change than what would have been possible under a putative Advani regime.
Currently, such ideological asymmetries don't exist. Hence it would be hard to imagine that Modi would step down from leadership at the end of the current term as prime minister. In all probability, he would retire at 79.