The recently concluded elections in New Delhi reminded me of an anecdote that took place on a domestic flight a few years back. Returning from a vacation, my hopping flight was on a forty minutes stop-over. A casual chat with the pilot revealed that he was an investment banker who switched professions to do what he loved since childhood. To fly. Interesting. One chose to be a commercial airline Pilot rather than a white-collared sophisticated banker with a salary in multiple figures and a safer, plush life. Not many of us can say or do that.
Parents decide the academics and career options of their offspring. Sometimes, people simply follow their parents’ career path in medicine engineering or other supposedly lesser professions. More often than not, it is the lure of money and power that forces one to follow a certain profession rather than what the heart wants. Perhaps a case of mind ruling over the heart. This professional conundrum is not restricted to the middle-class working class people, even the educated experienced elite in-the-limelight have fallen prey to various pressures to follow a career not of their choice.
Politics is one such field that has suddenly become the chosen profession for one & all. It has a magnetic attraction of glossy & glamorous image of power, fame, money, Z class security, beaconed cars and what not. Bureaucrats, Government executives, MNC professionals, Bankers, Armed Forces personnel. Suddenly, all are viewing Politics as a viable career option either mid-way through their present careers or after retirement.
To be a politician one does not require any expensive or status oriented academic degree. Any person who is a natural orator combined with skills to command and lead effectively can be a politician. However, it is crucial to identify one’s niche. Each human being has a certain skill set. Some are natural multi-taskers but not all can boast of being one. Alas, greed is like the tempting devil, and hunger for power and more power only sucks us into a whirlpool, drowning us deeper and further.
Kiran Bedi is India’s first woman IPS officer with many feathers of administrative acumen adorning her large cap. While I am personally saddened by her loss in the elections, I am surprised she could not anticipate that her niche lay in efficient administration and not as a crafty political leader. Not one to wield a cunning clout to gather profits for selfish purposes, throughout her glorious highly-decorated career as a police-woman, she went about her work with honesty and dexterity.
Two months into power and the AAM Admi Party is embroiled in a bitter internal struggle. It only reflects that Arvind Kejriwal was a successful bureaucrat with the Indian Revenue Services, however, his leadership skills are doubtful. Free water & Wi-fi or cheap electricity; is that all the Chief Minister of India’s capital city will guarantee its citizens? What about restoration of critical water resource river Yamuna or the deadly air pollution, not to mention security of women, law & order.
Mahatma Gandhi led India’s freedom movement but it was Nehru who dominated nearly two decades of post-independent India. Gandhi was a revolutionary and led mass movements, but I doubt if he had the makings of an astute politician, whereas Nehru’s good looks and charm won over the gullible Indians with his eloquent speeches.
Rajiv Gandhi was a successful pilot with the Indian Airlines. A modern Italian wife and two good looking children completed his happy family picture. The untimely death of his brother and mother forced his entry into politics, on a sympathy wave and to retain his hold on the Congress, and power. However, his faulty political decisions cut short the Congress’s rule and eventually led to his brutal assassination.
Sanjay Gandhi was known as a spoilt brat lacking in political diplomacy who met a tragic end. His soft spoken much younger wife, Menaka, was left to carry on his legacy but failed miserably. Not because she wasn’t qualified but because her acuity was as an environmentalist and an animal rights activist. She too lacked the presence, thought, speech and body language required of a political leader. My thoughts on her were confirmed as I watched her take oath as a cabinet minister in the Modi government in 2014, hesitating and shy on the podium.
Sonia Gandhi has been trying valiantly for over ten years, to project and plant her son Rahul Gandhi as the prospective Indian king. All in vain. It amazes me that the veteran congressmen have shamelessly bowed down to her demands and project him as their capable leader. Even her daughter Priyanka is unable to hold her ground. Unfortunately, the Prince and Princess have not inherited the legendary political vision. My guess is, sooner or later, Sonia will herself jump into the fray to revive the party to its former glory, her foreign origins notwithstanding.
Manmohan Singh’s policies and strategies as finance minister led India to successful economic heights, but he gave in to his urges and chose to occupy a seat not suitable to his humble stature.
Uddhav Thackeray, the leader of Shiv Sena in Maharashtra is a photography enthusiast and does not have manipulative skills required of a politician to ruthlessly retain its seat at the center. His photo books on nature trails of scenic Maharashtra are among the best sellers. Pursuing his creative field would have taken him far. Alas.
Renowned Indian film actor, Amitabh Bachchan, was initiated into politics by his good friend Rajiv Gandhi to cash in on his cinematic popularity among the masses. Bachchan failed miserably in his maiden political innings, swore off politics and humbly accepted that he is not cut out for the role of a politician. A wise decision. His huge presence in the world of cinema and television overshadows all old and contemporary legends. Clearly, his niche is on celluloid and he should stay there.
Several other film and television actors over the years too have migrated towards politics trying to gain a foothold of power. Very few have been successful in climbing high on the ladder of success.
At some stage they all were either forced, coerced or gave in to temptations to join the political work force they were ill equipped for, and therefore, failed. Though, this temporary political setback does not take away their accomplishments in their respective non-political fields, the point in case here is that all past and present aspirants to the top post have failed in their political ambitions simply because in their greed for power and to fulfil the aspirations of their political families, the candidates and their kin have overlooked their skill set which eventually led to their nadir.
A true politician can succeed with simple common sense and a good connect with people. However, one with any lack of it thereof will not be able to go far. The twenty first century politics is not a game of hierarchy not is it a conquest. The need of the hour is also that a politician working in modern India needs a vision for sustainable development, elimination of poverty, restoration of critical natural resources like water that are essential for all living beings to survive.