Being a Politician

Politicians are one species that most of us like to hate. In my conversations with people from more than twenty odd countries, I found that all of them unanimously and genuinely believe that politicians in their country are the worst. I wonder if there is any other class of people which generates such a unanimous opinion about themselves across all kinds of diversities. So much so, that the phrase Good Politician is always a perfect example of an Oxymoron.

Recent Lok Sabha elections gave us another opportunity to see the media focus on politicians, staking their claim to be in power and then re-aligning their strategies once they got the mandate from the public. As I sat through the hours of footage covering a whole lot of politicians and their election campaigns, read the reams and reams of paper on them and got all kinds of humorous messages in mail box, my mind started thinking of what it would be like to be a politician. What would motivate one to be a politician, assuming that most of us are not inclined to take it up as a career option, what would keep them going even in the age when most of their peer would have retired and are leading a laid back life, why would the rich and famous go and plead to the public to choose them as their leader. These are some of the thoughts that crossed my mind:

First of all to be a politician, you need extremely good health. You should be fighting fit to be able to work around the clock, be available to people and appear energetic enough to be able to lead people. If you look at the schedules of the politicians in last few months, you would admire their energy. Of course they say that power itself gives you the energy to go, but then your physical body has to co-operate with you. Imagine Advani going around the country and talking to millions and managing leaders both in his party and in the other parties at this ripe age, and also keeping himself abreast with all the current affairs and constantly creating a strategy in mind while responding to public via media. Imagine the high level of mental alertness required almost 24 by 7.

Next you need to have a very thick skin. You should be able to hear any comment about yourself and your intentions, let people speculate about your intentions, lets opponents tear you apart, but still be able to smile in public. At the same time you should be able to take in yours stride the potential positive things that are said to you that you may know are not true. You should be able to balance the praises and brickbats that come your way and be not driven by either of them. You should be able to listen to everything that is said to you and about you and not be impacted by either and do what you want to do. You should be ready for your friends turning foes at any time and be ready to kiss and make up with people who you are fighting today. You should be able to manage your emotions all the time unless you decide to use them to your advantage. Think of it how many of us can do that and virtually every politician does that all the time.

You need to be extremely good communicator, even if you do not have excellent language skills. You need to communicate with potentially everyone in the society, the people who would vote you to power, the media which keeps you under constant surveillance, businesses who fund you with an intention to help them back, your own people whom you have to hold together and your opponents who need to be kept in check all the time. How many of us can mange so many diverse set of people simultaneously and get them all together to be able to lead them and make them believe that you are actually serving them. You need to be able to let people decide, what you actually want them to decide.

You should be ready for a grind at least once in five years, if not earlier. Come election time and no matter how rich or famous you are, you have to hit the road, go through the grind, eat what you get on the way, with the people and be ready to rough it out. It may seem glamorous, but even after having chartered plans to your disposal, it is not easy to criss-cross the country, address rallies, meet the local workers who would have worked day in and day out for your visit, take stock of things while keeping an eye on what everyone else is doing, what media is saying and are they covering you enough or not. You are bound to fall off and on, you should be able to get up and start running again, till you either step forward or fall again.

You need to be multi-dimensional, you should be able to switch from topic to topic and have view on most of them and if required be able to change your views based on the situation. Today you could be from one constituency, tomorrow you may be asked to contest from another and you have to do it, connect with the locals, learn the local language, and convince people that you will take care of them. Today you may be asked handle one portfolio, tomorrow another and something else the next day, you are expected to not only understand all the nuances of the portfolio you handle but also give the best performance as expected by millions of people, who between themselves would have thousands of ways to measure you. You need to be extremely flexible and adaptable, both for the expectations from you and for the environment in which you may land up.

It is usually not apparent but you do need to have nerves of steel and a hell lot of grit to be able to be a politician. Any other qualities or characteristics that you think are required for being a politician…?

Anuradha Goyal