Professionals in politics?

March 25, 2009

What’s common to a banker, a dancer and a former U.N. under-secretary general?

Answer: they are all contesting the general election in India.

The main battle in the polls from April 16 to May 13 this year, as in years past, is between the centre-left ruling Congress and the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. A loose alliance of smaller regional parties has formed a Third Front, as well.

But Meera Sanyal, the country head of ABN Amro Bank, is not aligning with any of them. She will contest from South Mumbai, an upmarket locality and the main business district, as an independent candidate.

On a month’s leave of absence as she dabbles in politics, Sanyal will go toe-to-toe with Congress incumbent Milind Deora, the son of the oil minister, with Facebook groups and her husband speaheading her campaign. She said she found it difficult to align herself with the ideologies of the big parties.

That thought is echoed also by Mallika Sarabhai, a reputed dancer, who is contesting as an independent in Gandhinagar in Gujarat state, taking on BJP’s prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani.

Sarabhai, daughter of a space scientist, has worked with victims of the 2002 communal riots in which about 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, were hacked and burned to death.

Sarabhai, who has been vocal in her opposition to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, said she was against criminalisation of politics and wanted to bring the common man back into focus.

She also has support groups on Facebook, and a website, and while she is not expected to win, she has promised to fight.

And Shashi Tharoor, a writer and former U.N. under-secretary general, will be rolling up his sleeves to contest as Congress candidate from Thiruvananthapuram in Left-ruled Kerala state.

Tharoor, who was India’s candidate for U.N. Secretary-General in 2006, has had his eye on a more local political role since his return to his home state.

On the surface, Tharoor would seem to at least have some political skills. But should that disqualify well-intentioned, middle-class professionals?

“The middle-class considers politics dirty, and steers clear, but there are so many talented and smart people among us who should take responsibility and take the plunge,” said R.V. Krishnan, president of the fledgling Professionals Party of India, which is fielding a surgeon in South Mumbai.

Politics in India once drew the best and the brightest. Perhaps it is time to reclaim politics from our politicians and hand it to the bankers, writers and artistes?


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I think the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai has woken up the educated and respectable professionals and gotten them to enter politics. We need more candidates like Tharoor, Sarabhai and Sanyal running for office in our country.

Posted by Sakshi | Report as abusive

Yes we have already educated guys in Politics like Lawyer Arun Jaitley, Indian express Editor Arun Shourie, LSE educated Varun Gandhi. however education or honesty isnt the only criteria required in real politics look at MMS, how he has mismanaged the country. We havent have started any big projects since MMS has come, bombblast happening everyday, minority appeasement (Amarnathji Shrine) and corruption to its peaks. So not only education, you need conviction also to lead a country like INDIA in real life.

Posted by Sanjay | Report as abusive

Rina Chandran,

How come you forgot to add Lawyers in to the list of professionals ??
As a matter of fact every politician is a banker, writer, artist, engineer,lecturer, architect or even a farmer..there are few who were doing just social service..but the tragedy is many of them also had criminal cases before becoming a politician..
So just being some professional should not be a qualifying factor to become a is more important to have a clean history..isn’t it ??

Posted by Anitha | Report as abusive

i think sanjay forgot(!) to mention names other than those from right wing party….
Education is really should be basic qualification,.. and if protean faces like tht of artists, writers, lawyers are coming… then it is a great sign fro democract… but all these neve guarentee civilized-cultured personality… of which Varun itself itself is a nice example…

Posted by mujeeb patla | Report as abusive

What ever u say , what ever they do so called professional, but the truth is the elections are fought with guns, money, caste and religion not by the capabilty of any individual, In india where the most MP comes from cow belt, delhi rajasthan , W.B and M.P, Orrisa, how could u imagine to people like tharoor or any other person wil contest and win with out implenmenting the proper education system in the country and proper awareness among the major voter, and the fact is majority of voter despite having acess to mobile do nt handy with SMS, so how could party like congress , BJP and now even CPI(M) taking the war into 3D internet, i think its all rubbish , every thing is media hyped and nothing is practical in nature or near to ground realty, if u wanna see than go to villages of majorty of country and inside of the states where people still lives on less than 1$ for day, so those major voters will check internet and understand what the so called professional has any thing to do, people like deora or ny other such win cause of party not majorly cause of indiviual , as yeh india hai bhai world largst democracy still need balls to become a eductaed politics till than , hands off to all bhaiya , reginoal religion caste based politics kyunki , mera ghar uskey ghar sey saaf kyun nahi hai , ..

Posted by Amit Daga | Report as abusive

Professionals into politics cannot only improve situation in our country like India.We have lots of professionals in our country as politicians but the right attitude is necessary for ruling country in a better way.

And One of the best way to improve Indian people condition is to give them right education( and education to all).When we would have lots of educated people ,then they would understand their rights in a better and hence corruption would be minimal.

So,conclusion is Professional people in politics should understand their duties of improving lives of people.

Posted by Varun Singh | Report as abusive

These professionals jumping in the bandwagon won’t be able to do anything… While it is for sure that Mallika is more for publicity on expense of losing deposit, Tharoor and Sanyal are going to be a waste. Politics is a profession and those experienced in the profession of politics, should take plunge in politics. It is wrong concept that a Doctor, Scientist, Banker is professional because these folks hold a degree from some elite school and rest are not professionals. Anyone who has practiced politics is a professional. Not all professionals are effective and so not all politicians are effective. In present times, Modi, Advani, Jyoti Basu, Mamta Bannerjee, Mayawati, Pawar etc., all are professionals and more effective than what I term as “So Called Elite Professionals”. Tharoor, Sarabhai and Sanyal are far far off from people who go and vote. Hardly 5% of population would be aware of existence of these professionals.

Posted by Rohit | Report as abusive

Nice comment Rohit. But take into consideration the bank accounts of the ‘effective’ politicians you’ve mentioned. We are talking of billions. Also keep in mind the so-called workers’s party, the Commies, though dominating in just three states, are the richest in the country. All corrupt scums. One man (among many others, to be fair) as far I know who hasn’t looted the poor and the treasury is Anthony, the defence minister. May be there are a few others too, professional or not.

Posted by Koleth | Report as abusive

What rubbish comments from Rohit ? Yes the politicians you have named are effective, but in ruining the country. They are no way professionals. Politics is not supposed to be a profession, its a service. In other countries getting into politics straight away means taking a pay cut, its other way round in India. Think about it, India is slowly making progress (only economic) in spite of these politicians because we have good professionals. Its time to clean the dirt from politics, to review the constitution, bring in massive ethical reforms, turn the justice delivery system and law enforcement inside out……

Posted by Anup | Report as abusive

blaming each other and the system around, never change the problem… we have to acknowledge the truth, if politics is getting dirty, our nation too getting affected worst,… as it is a pure democracy… so we have to take inititative to step in to the system, try to aware our fellow beings about the power of vote, be a one man campaigner to the most eligible candidate, interms of education-civilization-culture-good human above all. we, and we only responsible for what we are today… we cant complain always… future is in our hand…

Posted by mujeeb patla | Report as abusive

Arun, you should carefully read… I said whoever is experienced in politics is a “Professional in Politics” because it teaches him nitty gritties of politics. There is nothing wrong in saying that politics is a profession… It is like any other job with it’s own rewards and recognitions… Likes of Tharoors, Mallikas or Sanyals are entering into politics for rewards nad recognition associated with it… They are no Mahatmas doing “Service”. Even social benefit organizations don’t do a thankless job. One need not be educated from likes of Harward of London School of Economics with history of success in bureaucratic job or some other profession to be called as “Professional in Politics”. As far as concerns raised by you are not getting addressed by so called “Professionals in Politics”, I can say that people like you are in minority or you don’t vote or you are unable to make persons around you to look and agree to your point of view.

Most of people who have always practiced profession other than politics and jumped the bandwagon of politics have failed. Lalu did a turn around of railways where in top shots and hot pots failed. Dhirubhai Ambani made Reliance and he was not from Harward or IIM. The current economic crisis has been precipitated by “Professionals” all so bright and so educated and so right that they could never assess the basics of market- Demand and Supply.

Posted by Rohit | Report as abusive

ANOOP… Anyone who is into politics and has experience of politics is a professional. For the matter of fact any one who has practiced any field for time enough to learn its nitty gritty is a professional of the field. I term a person as professional if he knows the nitty gritty of his trade and there is nothing wrong in terming politics as profession as it has rewards and recognition built into it like any other profession. No one… Not Even a Charity Organization does Thankless Job.

Elites like Tharoor, Sanyal, Sarabhai are babes as against likes of Pawar, Mulayam, Lalu, Modi, Mayawati, Basu etc. They have come into the field of politics in old age and I doubt their capacity to connect with majority of people with their mumbo jumbo.

I am not saying that Lalus and Basus and Modis etc have taken the nation ahead or not (as our country doesn’t publish their personal annual appraisal report) but that they are MORE EFFECTIVE. These people have made lasting impact on politics of our nation and so they are effective.

Whether the effect is positive or negative depends upon outlook of individual.

India or any other nation makes progress only due to sincerity, dedication of a person. Sincerity and dedication has got nothing to do with education from Harward IIM. Indian Railways has turned around due to sincerity and dedication of team of persons who wanted to do so and it may sadden you that Lalu was a part of the team and at the helm and to add more to your woes, he didn’t study from IIT or IIM or Harward.

Elites from likes of Harward, IIT, IIM were running organizations like AIG, Lehmann Brothers, Ford, GM with annual budget bigger than nations and look at them now… They have created crisis bigger than what political idiots could and now are first in the queue of beggars to suck public money with a bowl begged from beggars.

And at lastly on personal note… The leap in the economy is due to Mr. PV Narsimha Rao and the policies introduced in his era. Mr. P.V. Narsimha Rao was not from the “Elite Professional Class People Turned Politicians in Old Age Developing Sudden Illness to Serve Nation”

Posted by Rohit | Report as abusive

One another prominent name is left out of the list. That is the name of “Janardhana Swamy” an US returned techie contesting elections from Chitradurga LS seat as a BJP candidate.
He was a project manager in Sun Microsystems, California. He came from an agricultural family from a remote village in Chitradurga district and want to give back to society for whatever he has received from it in many folds…… is his website.

Posted by Manohar | Report as abusive

Among the gloomy picture of corporate deceit and political corruption, Andhra Pradesh is witnessing a awakening of sorts. This is not from highly educated financial czar nor from technocrat. This is the leader born from the aspiration of masses. jM

Posted by Srinivas | Report as abusive

It is not essential that the brightest or the best should come to politics if what that means is a person with a high professional qulaification or if he had made a good money of himself by working in an investment bank or if or if he has an MBA from Harvard(We know how the alumnis of LSE are disassociating themselves from Mr Varun Gandhi)..
Service to the people and administration of country`s common people is the question and people with that service mentality should come up.The best statesman politicians in the country are not recognised by how much they made for themselves or how much they were successfull in their other career but how effectively they could lead people with their words and ideas.
The reason why Mayawati,Atalji,Shivraj singh Chauhan,Ashok Gehlot or V.S.Achutrhanandan could touch the psyche of the people is because they lead and represent the people in some parts of the country.
Between elite investment bankers and corrupt politicians I dont feel any difference ;both have only individual agendas and psyche but atleast the politicians know the nitty gritty`s and ability to administer and understand the art of politics.
Why should I vote for Sanyal??What is her ideology??if she cannot form a party or cannot be part of a party or cannot negotiate between conflicting opinions ??what is the proof of her commitment to other`s cause??Is it beacuse she made herself some good money or beacuse she helped in creating more profit for her bank???.

Posted by Arun gp | Report as abusive

All the democracies in the world are waking up fast to the realities of the 21st century; many have opted for change- not a proven path but definately worth trying. In India , we have seen some political stalwarts understanding that and giving preference to youth as change agents and giving them seats. Rahul Gandhi has done it for Congress, other parties stand the same chance. It is worth trying. I am sure India will not repent as USA is not going to repent for selecting Obama.

Posted by Nishant Singla | Report as abusive

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