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