Friday, October 17, 2008

The value of a politician in India.

A great man is different from an eminent one in that he is ready to be the servant of the society- B. R. Ambedkar

An elected politician in India has three basic values.

1. The value of public service: Whereby , the politician can serve his electorate constituents by aiding in continuous development of the region; creation of infrastructure like roads, electricity, schools, hospitals ; economic development through creation of jobs, inviting industry etc. A Member of Parliament gets 20 MINR per year for spending in development projects,

2. The value of nation building : Whereby, all elected politicians bring in new policies for building a modern India keeping in tune with the needs of the globalised world.

3. The nuisance value : Whereby, a politician on account of his manpower ( as a leader of a 500,000 constituents) and/or official position can stop a developmental project , defy law of the land and bring business operations to a standstill.

The business of running an economy ruled by politicians is normally taken care by the big funders, corporate & large business empires. For them every politician has a value which can be objectified into a figure depending on the paths of action taken by him.

While all three activities referred above have their importances; probably in a developed democracy , a politician's monetary value can be judged by the second activity of "policy change & nation building". Lobbyists fall over each other to support & legally underwrite fund-raising dinners for politicians whose vision of policies fall within the broad objective of their organisations.
Ratan Tata's open support to communist government in West Bengal in an half-page advertisement in all the major dailies in Bengal & Rahul Bajaj's tacit support to the opposition's rally against Nano project on the tube have to understood in this context. It is more than corporate rivalry , as is being made out to be. Indian business houses have been "paying off" political parties in India from time immemorial, although illegally. Probably, the time has come to legalise & make transparent political donations from corporate houses so that the common people of India are aware of the actual agenda behind either a "policy decision" or "extra subsidies from government " or " a rally."
In an evolving ,illiterate, impoverished democracy like India; its the third value that of "nuisance " that attracts the highest bidder. No business entity wants a "mob" to vandalise the "congenial environment" in which his business empire operates. The nuisance value of the politician is in threatening or removing the perception of "congenial" environment.
Higher the nuisance , higher the price business has to pay , illegally, to buy peace & congeniality.

Probably, its time for business entities in India to take a look at fixing a value for the first activity, that of public service. It makes sense for business empires to invest in development of a politician's constituency , where his units are being set up. The donations can be legal and can match/surpass the government grants for a MP. But more importantly, it will bring a focus to a politician's first job of nurturing his constituency & also keep the "mob" away from being a part of rag-tag army of vandals.
Cartoon Source : Bigpicture's blog

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