ENTRY LEVEL PROFILE OF
Analysis of Indian political scenario is often clouded by discussions about party X vs. party Y. The underlying assumption being that each party is different. The fact is that all Indian political parties have a lot in common and the differences are only superficial. It is worthwhile to look at political parties in India as members of one unified political class that has common aspirations, concerns, methods and constituents. Without getting into the details of all that is common to the class, let us look at the entry level of all political parties in India.
All political parties in India have a similar entry level profile. In other words, there is hardly any difference between a person entering Congress or one entering BJP. We can make some generalizations and classify the people entering political parties into the following broad categories:
This is the largest category of persons entering the grand portals of Indian political parties. It can even be said that politics in India will undergo a sea change the day unemployment is removed from India.
The young man (rarely a woman), who has just completed some so-called-education that has taught him nothing and made him capable of nothing else except calling himself graduate, is under severe pressure from his family members to do something worthwhile. Family pressures make his life at home unbearable and he is looking for some way to remain away from home. He meets this political leader who is looking for someone like him. The young man starts hanging around the political leader and starts doing all sort of petty jobs which include shouting slogans from time to time, creating a ring around the leader which gives the impression that the leader is an important person, bashing up opponents if need be, getting "pan" from time, etc. The young man shadows the leader from early morning to late night. This has two benefits (a) the young man is no longer a burden on his poor family for food since this part is taken care of (b) the family does not pester him any more for the obvious reason that he comes home only to sleep and is otherwise never at home.
In due course, the young man learns to make some small amount of money. For example, he may collect say Fifty Rupees from a villager who wants to get a certificate signed from the leader. This petty amount gives him the out-of-pocket expenses that he needs. His next stage is when he learns to leverage his proximity to the leader to pressurize the local administration including the police. This is the point when he undergoes a metamorphosis and starts becoming a leader in his own right. His own family who had treated him so far as a disgraceful black sheep not worth mentioning starts treating him with some respect. There is someone or the other who is suffering at the hands of the Government machinery and he acts as a great saviour for the sufferer by either using his proximity to the leader or by using some of the bullying techniques that he has acquired during his days with the leader. Some of these services are performed free to gain friends and others are at a price. The friends so gained help him climb up the political ladder, while the money helps him buy the starched kurtas that announce to the world that he is a leader.
As time progresses the mentor of the young man needs to move up and he needs to create a structure that will support him. So the young man is appointed to some posts either in the party or in the Government as a reward of loyalty to the great leader naturally with a commitment of future loyalty. Thus begins the journey of a politician. After a few years or may be decades, the young man becomes a leader who gets his own bunch of cronies and the process goes on.
More than eighty percent of the new members of Indian political class belong to this category. Most of them are incapable of getting any job or gainful employment and have no understanding of anything even remotely intellectual. Democracy, ideals and ideology are hollow words in their mouths. They are incapable of understanding the meaning of such words but nevertheless recite them just like a parrot.
This category is an important minority in Indian political class. They are born with a silver spoon in their mouth and do not need to do anything to earn their bread and butter. Education for them has no use since everyone in India is taught from an early age that education helps one get a job and these worthies do not need a job. Sure enough, they acquire some degrees for the name-sake but they look at all education with disdain. They have no skills or capabilities and are not inclined to compete and work the way normal mortals do. Their motivation for entering political parties is to get the respect that they think they truly deserve by birth.
Members of this categories rise very quickly. They do not need to hang around some leader from morning to night like the poor young man. Acquiring a bunch of young men who hang around is very easy for them, since they can afford to spend on food etc. for a very large number of cronies. Applying the logic of Indian politics, one's status is judged by the number of cronies that one keeps. So, these rich men (and sometimes women) become senior leaders in no time. Often the process is aided by some relative who is already a political figure and who acts as a Godfather (in many cases, it is the father himself).
Examples of this class include members of the erstwhile royal families and children of senior politicians. The class does not include children of rich businessmen because a businessman's child is generally trained to manage and run a business and is given a value system that encourages hard work.
This category of people come to politics in middle age. They have made a huge amount of money and are distressed by the fact that money does not get them the respect that they deserve. Politicians love this category and exploit them to the fullest. This category of persons not only provides the money and the cars needed by the politicians but are ready to even act as drivers to be close to the top leaders. They come to politics with petty motives which are easily satisfied. Politicians are glad to throw a few crumbs at them to get all the goodies, while keeping them out of the mainstream and out of all key decision making processes.
They have lived their to the fullest as pillars of the establishment, in glorified positions. Faced with an eventless retirement, they go back to the leaders whom they had obliged during their career and seek to initially become advisors and subsequently move on to positions of power to satisfy their insatiable urge for power. Their strength lies in their knowledge of the bureaucratic machinery as well as their old boys network. Deep in their heart, they look down upon all politicians as well as at politics. For them politics is an essential evil to maintain the trappings of power that they have been used to. Political parties try to get some of these arrogant oldies to try to convey the impression that they have some "intellectuals" among their ranks and to show that they are capable of running a Government. Some of these "intellectuals" are assigned the job of preparing policy documents and manifestoes of various political parties. No wonder, the policy documents and manifestoes of all parties in India read like Government hand-outs - drab and unreadable.
Stars (including film stars and sports personalities) are just like the nose-in-the-air oldies except that they do not have any illusions about their capabilities of being able to run a Government or about being an intellectual. Stars and political leaders share a symbiotic relationship. Stars, who are fading away from the glamour world, like the importance that they get at political rallies. On the other hand, political parties like the crowds that stars attract. Stars are very convenient to political parties since they rarely get involved in the internal squabblings and are not as demanding as the nose-in-the-air oldies. (Exceptions - Tamilnadu and Andhra Pradesh)
This is an endangered species that is on the way of extinction in the Indian political jungle. Some of these specimens can be found in all political parties where they are either neglected or hunted out or assigned to the most menial jobs possible or exploited by some political animal as a good backroom assistant. A case comes to mind of a bright young engineer from IIT who was assigned by BJP bosses to serve tea. The fool did it with such a finesse that he was noticed and appreciated. This raised an alarm and he was moved out of even that and was duly hunted out.
Pre-independence Congress had a large number of idealist fools. After independence the fools have gone to various parties from time to time. Communists, Socialists, RSS and BJP attracted such fools for a fairly long time. However, the times have changed now. Socialists have disintegrated. Communists have become political dinosaurs. BJP is trying to become a mainstream political parties and is trying to attract as many as possible of the five categories - unemployed youth, born rich & important, nouveau riche, nose-in-the-air oldies and stars. The idealist fools have really no place in the present political scenario. Yet, the fools choose to ignore such blatant realities and keep banging their head in the false hope of being able to make a contribution and bring about a change.
It may not be just the idealists who are stupid enough to have hope. May be the whole of India is just that in having hopes from this or that political party!
19th July, 2000
Please write to me your comments about the above article.
ANIL CHAWLA is an engineer by qualification but a philosopher by vocation and a management consultant by profession.
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