Rahul Gandhi and Congress have forgotten politics is a full-time job

If Gandhi junior wants the party to stay relevant, he will need to get up every morning and turn up for work.

 |  4-minute read |   26-02-2015
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It doesn't require any specific educational qualification to get into politics. Indeed it requires no qualification of any sort to get into politics. It helps if you already belong to a political family but that is not mandatory either, as Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal have shown. In fact, as far as qualifications go, the entry barrier for getting into politics is lower than it is for almost any other job - including low end call centre jobs and clerical jobs. You only need to go through the academic qualifications of most of our elected leaders at the central and state level to understand that.

But for all that, politics is a full-time job. To succeed in politics, you still need to get up every morning and go to work, rain or shine. You need to constantly find ways to connect with your customers - that is, the voting public. You need to keep a close eye on your peers and rivals. And you need to figure out ways to promote yourself from time to time and never let people forget that you are around. It helps if you have a talent for self-promotion but even if you don't, you can learn that over a period of time.

You need to find causes, and, if you are an elected member of the legislature, make your presence felt and show your face all the time. You need to remind your customers - the voters - that you are doing good work, even if it means exaggerating your achievements and minimising those of your rivals. Even if you are tired and weary, you need to get back to office and the field.

In most cases, the more time you devote to your work, the more successful you will be. Of course, luck plays a factor and so do other issues like leadership quality, being born in the right family or the right caste or even the mistakes of your opponents. But in most cases, while it is easy enough to get into politics, it is pretty hard to get to the top and stay there without a lot of hard work. It does not matter which political party you belong to - all political leaders who are successful have one thing in common. They work enormous hours. Whether you take Narendra Modi, Arvind Kejriwal or Mamata Banerjee, all of them believe in putting in their 12 hours or more of work daily. They do not believe in long gaps from work - whether to reflect or even because they are feeling ill. In fact, if you get back to work when you are obviously under the weather - as Kejriwal did during the Delhi elections - it counts as a big plus. Your customers are impressed. If you can criss-cross the country, addressing rally after rally every day, as Narendra Modi did during the general elections last year without getting more than a couple of hours of sleep daily, the electorate understands that you are committed to your job. If, on the other hand, you stroll in to work once in a while, or show that politics is only a small side business for you, it will not get you elected. The voters might think you are a decent bloke, but they will probably vote for someone who they think will turn up for work more regularly.

Certainly no one seems to have told this to Rahul Gandhi. Or if they have, he has pretty well chosen to ignore them. In a recent article, a Congress spokesperson tried to equate Rahul Gandhi's patchy record of attending Parliament with that of Modi, who was travelling a lot during the last parliamentary session. The problem with that argument is that the country as a whole knew where Modi was travelling - and that he was travelling for work. Sure, critics could point out that he was spending more time on diplomacy than on internal affairs, but he was still working. One can't say the same for Rahul Gandhi who has the tendency to vanish from public view for long stretches at a time.

And it is not Rahul Gandhi alone - the entire lot of senior leaders of the Congress seems to have decided that politics is a part-time job. In most cases, except for the times when an election rolls around or when a news anchor calls them to appear in a panel discussion, most of them have other, more lucrative, day jobs. Some are lawyers and others run businesses. They dust up their political boots only when an election rolls around. Is it any wonder that in election after election, they have been losing ground.

If Rahul Gandhi reflects hard enough, he will realise that if he wants the Congress to stay relevant, he will need to get up every morning and turn up for work. And so do all his people.

Writer

Prosenjit Datta Prosenjit Datta @prosaicview

The writer is a business journalist at India Today and bookworm.

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