Don’t laugh it off: A humble plea to aspirants
by Virendra Parekh on 16 Apr 2009 0 Comment

We are proud of our leaders, especially the MPs of both the incumbent and the aspiring varieties. It is highly unfair to run them down with snide remarks that the country has no towering leaders worth following. At least in one respect, and something in which everyone is definitely interested, they have distinguished themselves with their achievements both as individuals and as a class.

Nearly 40 years after Indira Gandhi took on the Congress Old Guard with the magical slogan of Garibi Hatao and swept the polls in 1971, India’s politicians have managed to accomplish that Herculean feat, albeit only for themselves. So what if India is still a poor country? At least, its netas are no longer poor. As befits true leaders, they lead the fight against poverty from the front by setting personal examples. You may not be able to say this about India, but its politicians are certainly shining.

For example, Orissa may be a poor, backward state. But Orissa’s leaders are anything but poor. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s assets amount to about Rs 7.98 crore. In Kalahandi-Bolangir-Koraput region, infamous for starvation deaths, the main candidates raring to render selfless service to the downtrodden are all worth crores. The scenario is more or less similar all over the country.

It is remarkable that the assets of our Members of Parliaments have risen much faster than the country’s GDP. There is no slowdown in their march to greater prosperity. Doubling, trebling or quadrupling of assets in five year is quite common for these officially acknowledged representatives of India’s teeming millions. We shall not name names - it could be unfair to others. We shall not give statistics - it could cause heart-burning in a great many bosoms.

What we would like to point out is that this is a ringing demonstration of what our leaders can achieve once they set their hearts on something.

We would also like to draw your attention to some redeeming and, indeed, inspiring features of this great national enterprise.

First, look at the modesty of the candidates. Politicians, we are told, are given to exaggeration and hyperbole. But we can rest assured the assets declared by these worthies have every chance of being understated, rather than overstated. Our leaders know when modesty and understatement are greater virtues than assertiveness and exaggeration. 

Secondly, the achievements cut across all barriers of parties, regions and age. Each party has its own heroes. East, west, north, south - every region is swarming with great achievers. Age is no bar. If Advani can triple his wealth in five years, Priya Dutt can increase her (economic) assets nine times. The old and the young, the rightist and the leftist, the casteist and the communalist are all in it together.

Finally, the disarming simplicity of some of the highest in the land. We now know that Sonia Gandhi, poor thing, does not have a car or a house. How often though has anyone seen her walking down the street like you and me? And she is the only politician in the country who is often referred to by her address rather than the name. We cannot resist quoting Ghalib: 

Is saadagi par kaun na mar jaaye ‘Asad’?
Karte hain katl aur haath mein talavaar bhee nahin
We have no doubt whatsoever that every rupee declared by our leaders to the electorate is hard-earned money, produced by honest labour and brilliant talent.

If only they were to share their little secret with us: how to get rich, so much, and so soon. If only they told us how a middle class man who could not afford a bicycle could own a fleet of cars in less than five years; how a leader of street hawkers can amass Rs. 124 crores in a few years; how a handsome young man with no education worth the name can garner a couple of crores without doing a single day’s work…
This is what Indian voters are yearning to learn from their leaders. And this is election season. The leaders are expected to meet the people and keep them in good humour. Instead of boring people with insipid speeches in thinly attended meetings, if the candidates were to educate the people on how to get rich fast, their meetings would be well attended, they would be heard with rapt attention and they would most certainly be elected with a thumping majority. Wonder why no one thinks of it.

The author is Executive Editor, Corporate India, and lives in Mumbai

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