A political desert

A deep gloom descended on me as I watched President Obama debate Mitt Romney in the first of this American election's debates last week and for the oddest reason. Hearing them present their views on the economy, governance, healthcare and education made me brood over how many Indian political leaders could hold their own in such a debate. It did not cheer me up when the list I came up with did not get beyond the fingers of one hand. In it featured a couple of chief ministers and a couple of Cabinet ministers. That was it. There were a few more that came to mind, but I eliminated them when I realised that they would not be able to say what they wanted to in two minutes.

Why is the Indian political stage currently occupied by such a large number of players who would not get standing room in public life in a more sophisticated democracy? Why is it that even our newest political party, born last week under the leadership of Arvind Kejriwal, offers us a 'vision document' so bereft of new ideas?

The most obvious reason for why things have got so bad is, without question, dynasty. Thanks to the sad reality that nearly all our political parties have become family firms, we have a situation in which people with real political skills, and a real interest in serving the country, are kept out by scions of the party boss. In nearly every case, these heirs are mediocrities who their daddies (or mummies) have brought into politics because they would not be able to hold down a proper job in another area of enterprise. They do not like to have intelligent, educated, public-spirited people in their inner circle because this would show up their limitations, so they prefer to surround themselves with sycophants and underlings. This does not help them develop political or economic ideas that would be of use to our unlucky country.

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