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Politics - A Profession

This post is loosely inspired by the TATA Tea ad where this politician goes to ask for votes and a voter asks him for his qualification and work experience the the important 'job' that he is embarking upon. The politician laughs at the voter, asking him what job is the voter referring to. The voter responds, "The job to run the country".

Do politicians in other countries view politics as a profession? Or is politics viewed similarly across international boundaries? The best way of course to find out is go to that ever useful tool for professionals - LinkedIn. 

Here are the results:

Barrack Obama

Hillary Clinton

Sarah Palin

The apparently technologically challenged Senator John McCain.

I also came across many politicians, prime ministers who have LinkedIn profiles. While having a LinkedIn profile is not a certificate of a person character, one has to appreciate the intent. Reach out to masses, and more importantly, take politics as a profession. Successful leaders, political and otherwise, have a common thread that binds them - their keenness to reach out to masses of different classes.

Unfortunately, in India, this does not seem to be the case. Today, every party can be clearly defined to the class they owe their loyalties to. The SP to the Muslims, the BSP to the Dalits, the Congress and BJP to the upper class and so on. I read an article on which mentioned that Mayawati lacks the Pan-India appeal. My question is, do the national parties have a pan-India outlook? Unfortunately, the answer is No. And that is why, this election will mark the lowest ebb in indian politics, and will be the highlight of the failure of democracy owing to divisive politics by parties, with a clippered outlook. 

The BJP has been actively and aggressively campaigning off the TV sets while on the TV set, they have been bickering. Advani's website looks fresh, an investment clearly aimed at targetting the younger voters, also borrowed from Obama. SMS campaigning is in full spree as well. While I strongly believe that the BJP have the wrong candidate for the PM's role, atleast the attempt to reach out to young evident voters is evident. This probably marks a paradigm shift from the previous elections. The Congress, despite its hoard of young politicians, has very mediocre websites, and there is a clear lack of innovative thinking in their election campaigns. They came up with ads for different ministries, but what is new in that? By buying the rights to 'Jai Ho' song, I am not really sure, whom are they targetting. The third front is a joke, and I shall not waste my time expecting them to campaign with any issues except Congress-BJP bashing. 

What made the US presidential elections special was Barrack Obama's effective use of technology, which was reciprocated by McCain's camp. Both parties had national issues, which had to be answered. Solutions and strategies were explained to laymen. That is professionalism. And that is precisely what is lacking in Indian Politics. 

We ape the west in every possible sense. Why can't we ape them as far as the professionalism in politics is concerned? If not a LinkedIn Profile, atleast a blog that outlines strategies. Post 2009 elections, both national parties will rework their strategy towards regional politics. But, at a time when there has been record number of new voters, a hung parliament can take us many years back.

It will be interesting to see how Indian Politics evolves from this!


Si_Lee said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Si_Lee said…
he he .. welcome here as an author sirjee.. :)

not that i contest what you have said but yes a little rebut .

"Professional", what is this Professional ?? Doing things in a highly organised and systematic manner ?? or to be more precise one who is expert at a particular profession .. Profession .. hmmm thats the question you have raised.. so what is a profession ?? really ?? a designation given to a type/cadre of responsibilities...????

No Shiv i dont see it as a profession.. they are leaders their roles and responsibilities are not of the same cadre as any other profession of a layman. If you are talking about having the intent and the responsibility similar to what a dedicated professional in his job has I go with you ... I go with the traits I believe they need to have .. but as far as politics goes .. i feel the fact tht politicians view it as a job .. you see a seat of power much like our cubicles and how we want to cling on to them so that we keep having the power to earn ..
A leader/politician should be beyond that lest power corrupts him ... and that is the sad state of affairs here..

You often talk about this record no of voters ... I am not pessimistic .. but a realist ... to what effect is that statistic ?? really what are going to be its repercussions??? The fact tht ppl who vote hv increased ??? fine .. but do the candidates change at all .. ? even if a candidate changes .. the party decides his agenda to a great extent ... my take is .. I am contributing to the development of this country in ways i have under my control and consequences of which i can take ownership of .. good or bad .. period. beyond that is a ball game and I dont like the idea of playing catch , i would rather face any govt. that comes to power with any agenda and continue with my contribution... I am not being practical as what i am onto shall not usher in that change in our leadership .. i know .. but i also know voting is not the way ... if there is a way i shall be game for it ..
ok we end this here will take it up over the phone ...
bookrazy said…
Hello all!
Shiv: I agree with your premise that professionalism is absent in today's politicians. We can see it most, I think, in the way politicians handle campaigns, and also how MP's behave during their tenure.
One would think, given that politicians depend on the people for votes, that they would regularly update the people on their contributions to the current government. An MP must publicize her/his voting record, her/his contributions to any committee he is a part of, bills s/he sponsored/authored, etc.
These are the signs of a professional politician, and are the best markers of her/
his performance.
I was amazed, while tracking the U.S. elections, to see how Obama's voting record, as well as McCain's were scrutinized carefully, and constantly referred to by the candidates to support their claims about themselves.
While there was quite a lot of spin, at least some factual basis could be found that backed up/debunked the claims of the candidates.
I think we need this if we are ever to elect a professional government.

Kaul: You need not be engaged in a profession to be professional in your work. A social worker need not look at their calling as a profession. But a professional outlook wil only improve their output, and increase confidence in their abilities. the same holds for politicians.
Si_Lee said…
@ iyer ..
welcome here ...
dude as i said professionalism is not what i am against .. i am game for it .. see where i write about traits they need to have ... what i stressed on was that it not a job ... it is something much more important and deems a greater responsibility from the individual .. we need leaders who lead and yes have a sense of professionalism in doing things .. but beneath all that the core should be that of a leader not an employee of the legislature or nation for that matter .. and by leader lets stay limited to the ideal kinds ..
Shiv said…
Sid... Perform or perish is the mantra in today's corporate world. That mantra is missing in the political system.

The primary 'job' of any CEO of any organization is to motivate his people, inspire them to reach greater heights. And that is the same with any leader. I agree that a leader/politician should be beyond that lest power corrupts him ... But in the practical society, leaders tend to have the exact same opinion that you have. They claim that their responsibilities are NOT of the same cadre as any other profession. It is this holier-than-thou view point that really bogs the wheels of democracy, and gives them a chance to run away from their primary responsibilities, which are a lot more than just motivation. Today, to 'motivate people', you can either distribute money on holi or cause a communal riot.

While I wrote the post, I meant that politicians must have the fear and the sense of belonging that every professional whose job is uncertain has. To improve their skillset, to push themselves a step beyond. And just because their job is above every other profession, doesn't mean it is not a job. It is a career they chose. Like all of us, they chose it for whatever reason that appeals to them. But, like all of us, they must live up to their commitment to the job. Our ideas are extremely similar, but I just believe that, if they realised that they would be umemployed, hungry and shun my society if they are jobless, the commitment to perform will be more than now.

Iyer, welcome. Glad you approve of the post. :)
Si_Lee said…
Shiv .. apparently they do keep improving their skill set ... devising newer innovative strategies to woo the voters ..
You talk about the US and obama .. what is the sentiment ppl hv for their president there ?? Why such a furore over the clinton monica scandal ?? its not un common there .. no .. it was because their leaders cannot be ordinary .. they cannot have the flaws a layman has .. so if you say politics shud be the same as any other job and then quote Obama u r being an oxymoron... pardon for the harsh tone ...

A leader or the JOB of being a leader is not the same as a laymans job ... dude an efficient leader has to be a notch more responsible than the most dedicated professional ... it is the responsibility that comes with the post , with the field .. it is because politicians view it as a job they have to do they work towards being a popular govt. and not a populist one ..
Si_Lee said…
@ shiv
however when u say "politicians must have the fear and the sense of belonging that every professional whose job is uncertain has" i cud not agree more and i said the same thing in my first rebut as well .. but if u say its just another job ... no sir .. I dont believe it is and that for me defines the kind of person I would like to see on that chair representing MY views, Working for MY welfare where ME represents every citizen and to be citizen of this country
Shiv said…
Working for your welfare, representing your views is precisely the person's job. No two jobs are similar. A sweeper and a CEO have jobs, its just the stakeholders that vary. Similarly, a politician who has taken up a role of a leader... his 'job' is to take his stakeholders, you, me, all of us, to a brighter future.

Instead of concentrating on the task at hand, when the leader spends time gloating over his power, he is a failure. Simply because of the undue attention that he gives to what he was originally supposed to do.

I am not equating jobs here. But just trying to project how the self-assumed self-importance of the political classes governs our political system. Again, it is my perception that its their profession... and I could be wrong.

But 10 years from now, I feel the political system will be a lot more professional! :)
Si_Lee said…
@ shiv,..
"Instead of concentrating on the task at hand, when the leader spends time gloating over his power, he is a failure. Simply because of the undue attention that he gives to what he was originally supposed to do.
he he see this is why i said his job is not of the same cadre .. in any other job be it a ceo or sweeper undue attention is given to their role their seat and all efforts are made to regain it if not go up the ladder .. where as a leader , well whether he in power or not , whether he has been given that job or not shud keep fulfilling his responsibilities .. they never end whether he is in ofc or nt ..

that has been my point all along .. and u r right i same the same perception as you thats why i feel its not just a job i repeat not JUST a job .. :)
Si_Lee said…
I share the same perception****
Shiv said…
:-) Either ways, the next 5 years are going to be rather interesting.
Si_Lee said…
@ shiv ..
bookrazy said…
I agree that a politician cannot look at politics as "just" a job. Just like a Doctor can't look at medicine as "just" a job or a teacher with education. There needs to be something more. A driving passion, a feeling that what they do is their vocation.
But there's a flip side to this, more apparent in leaders and medicos than in teachers. It is the ultimate ironies of these professions.
Let me explain. When we all think of doctors, the first quality we look for is a passion to save lives. In popular conception at least, the best doctor is one who would cut out his right hand to save a patient's life.
But anyone acquainted with the medical profession knows that one of the first thing a Doctor needs to learn is to distance himself from his patient. "This is not a person, this is a case", as it were.
Success here demands an absence of passion, as it is only in this state that a doctor can make full use of his reason, and rationally diagnose his patient and cure him.
bookrazy said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
bookrazy said…
I think the same is the case with leaders/politicians. I'd say you need passion, and a belief that you are meant to lead to become a politician.
But to be a successful leader, you need to be able to detach yourself from this passion. You need to think of yourself as the CEO of a huge corporation. Your job is to ensure the smooth running of the corporation. Make sure that in the balance, profit far outweighs loss.
Yes, in this metaphor, profit, loss and corporation need to be redefined to fit a nation, but that doesn't take away from the fact that only this attitude will ensure that politicians work for the country, not for votes.
Ultimately, it boils down to how you define professionalism.
As I see it: it is the quality that makes a worker try his hardest to do something till he is satisfied no one else can do it better. It is the ability to ignore personal gain and promotion, and concentrate on getting the job at hand completed.
Reminds me of the Bhagvat Gita, that.
Si_Lee said…
@ iyer ..
are you telling me Passion comes in the way of rationality ??? if so .. please give that a second thought .. Secondly professionalism does not mean forgetting promotion and ignoring personal pain .. it means sticking to guidelines set for your work .. and doing the best you can ...

as far as leading goes .. dude how can u say that the leader should forget the passion he has .. ? look he does not have the passion to lead .. leaders are followed .. hence they lead .. the passion is to strive to work for the welfare of the people .. not leading them .. that is what defines a leader ..

Thirdly Bhagvad Gita ??? philosophy behind karma ?? that is not limited to professional spheres and has a far greater meaning than the one put down here, even if it was only alluring to it ..
bookrazy said…
I'm not saying there should be no passion. I'm saying it can only be the starting point.
A merely passionate politician is never going to be a successful one.
More importantly, such passion can, and evidently has, lead to megalomania. And the passion I refer to is not the passion for power/position, but a passion for the people's welfare (as defined by said passionate leader, of course!).
Look at Hitler. I'm sure you'll agree that he was passionate, and really did believe he was working for the greater good of Germany and the world. Neither money nor the trappings of position attracted him as much as the feeling that he was doing something "good".
And he was a brilliant "leader" in the sense that he got people to follow. But he was an abject failure, in that he did not succeed.
And the root cause of his failure is that he let his passion overwhelm any rationality. Look at the anti-Semitic policies that drove brilliant scientists like Enrico Fermi, Lise Meitner and Neils Bohr from the Third Reich and into America, where they helped build the first atomic bomb, spelling doom for Hitler's cause.
Look at his treatment of Rommel.
bookrazy said…
What we see here is passion superseding cold rationality. End result is bad politics and disastrous leadership.
What is needed in a politician is the ability to see it as a science. As I see it, the best politician/leader is one who doesn't even need to be an official leader to achieve welfare for the people. Such a person must, of course, project passion, even be passionate, when it comes to gathering support. But he cannot be passionate alone as an administrator/leader. What he must prize is delivering on his job (or even non-job, if the situation makes it so).

as for the Gita, what is wrong in referencing it? Wasn't it delivered as a response to a soldier contemplating unprofessional conduct? True, this serves only as a metaphor, but that doesn't mean that the Gita can't serve as a guide to the best work ethic.
Si_Lee said…
passion and fanaticism are two different things .. Hitler was nt a great leader .. he was a brilliant orator though ...
A leader and his actions; the intent behind them and their consequences ... for me the intent defines the leader .. not the consequence ..
it was not passion that curtailed his rationality ... it was his hatred for the jews .. he did do many good things but i attribute that to the fanatic passion he had for making germans the highest race ..
however without digressing further on that ..
i dont deny that politicians need to be professional at all .. i never denied that ... so i am not going to contest that .. all i said was a politicians job is far more complicated than any other profession we have here ... atleast in a democracy .. you are the voice, the hope, the supposed prophet for the millions who look up at you for their well being ... it is not about megalomania ... it is about realising that what they hold in their hands is not just lives of millions but also their futures.. to any mortal the task of fully fathoming this realisation is mammoth , so it requires a leader a true leader .. look at gandhi, mendela, martin luther..etc .. they made their mistakes according to some fine .. but the intent .. the intent was for the welfare of the people .. i can be a team leader and maybe a CEO but i know i cannot be a leadr not because i dont love to lead or dont hv a passion for it but because the magnitude of the responsibility that is to lead and govern a people ,i cannot withstand ...
Si_Lee said…
As faar as bhagvad gita goes .. it does not talk about the merit of task at hand dear .. duty there is duty .. here we are discussing their duties and the merits once we do tht lets leave Gita behind
Shiv said…
The original post was written with the intent of highlighting one of the key features that will mark the weakness of a democracy like ours, by comparing US and Desi politicians. While the US politicians try to reach out to a wider audience and support base, Indian politicians have decided to form a central government by reaching out to specific sections of the society and leaving out the rest. This, in my opinion, will bring out the mockery that is going to be Elections 2005.
Si_Lee said…
@ shiv dude as far as We go we live in 2009 .. how come you in 2005 ?
bookrazy said…
Shiv: Sorry we've gone so off the mark dude! However... Elections 2005? :D

Kaul: Your point about the sheer magnitude of the responsibility is exactly why I think professionalism is so important. As is the fact that leadership/politics is such a different profession compared to others.
In many ways, a leader needs to be the sum of all the professions, needs to worry about all their spheres.

Anyway, more to the point... how many website have you guys visited where you see an advert "Advani for PM"? I read in TOI that the BJP has put up these ads in 2000 websites most visited by Indians.
I've seen these ads in the most absurd websites! Still its not a bad start at all. As Indians become more net savvy, I think politicians will have to adapt to the fact that each of their mistakes will be discussed extensively, and by people from all over the country. That can only be for the good.
Si_Lee said…
@ iyer ..
My blog is one of them and i have seen it on cricinfo as well and many places ..
anyways peace now ..
Sushant said…
Ok there is just tooo much to read and i really dont have the patience of going thru every comment so i'm just gonna give my thots.

The politicians have chosen politics as their jobs and they have to prove themselves to be responsible. They have to show professionalism and dedication and love for their job and have to understand the responsibilities and the profile of the post they are applying for. They have to show to us that they are good, smart, and responsible enough for us to place their trust in them. Which is exactly what the guy asks in that advertisement. Unfortunately, that is in the perfect world and we live in the other extreme - in the highly imperfect world.

Indians haven't realised this. They don't understand that brandishing a party flag and calling oneself loyal to a certain political party is not everything in life. Sadly there also the undertones of money and power in this issue and so its better we stay clear of it.

2ndly, yes, Indians dont see politics as a job. But the only way to solve it is to revamp the current government system and many parts of the constitution which can not happen unless we have a suicidal dictator who takes power, makes the changes and then convinces the people to follow his changes and then kills himself to avoid punishment and to become a martyr. But again sadly this is not gonna happen.

Another way is that today's young people enter politics, but we all know thats not gonna happen either. They dont want to be in the govt becoz of no money and once they do enter everyone becomes corrupted.

The last and only resort left to us now is education. Educate the public, the villagers and the poor people so that they can make a life for themselves and so that they can realise exactly how worthless our political system really is, such that ultimately their will be a revolution leading to the change. But who are we kidding, the politicians dont spread education so that they can fool the people and without education no good will ever come about.

So you see its a vicious cycle.. no use talking about it. The only thing we can do is promote a quiet revolution. A slow change among our peers, among our generation and among our children. When we, the young and the future of this country, start helping and supporting each other is when we will actually start making a difference.

The currently existing political parties wont do a damn thing. All they'll do is talk and fight and squabble. Look at Varun Gandhi he has already shown his true nature, he is a true politician not a person who can make a difference. Advani is an old crow who will drop dead any moment, he is also the most short-sighted person i have seen my life. Sonia Gandhi is an old shrew who has lost herself in politics, she has no ideologies whatsoever, she is here to make money. Rahul on the other hand seems to be ideological but he lacks the strength, backbone and the charisma his father had, looks as if he is just doing as mommy tell him to. And the third front is a joke! they are the worst bunch of nincompoops i've ever seen in my life.

The next 5 years will be far from interesting. In fact it'll be quite bad, we've reached a stage where our politics actually lacks a leader who has a backbone, an ideology and one who can unite the people and bring order to this chaos which we call India.

God help India! otherwise i have a feeling its run its course.

@Shiv -> Kudos to u dude!! very nice job i must

@Sid as far as ur profession vs. professionalism goes... professionalism will never come about if we don't view the posts in the government as a job and a profession. And trust me when i say that professionalism in politics is much much much needed today.
Sushant said…
Wow! i think i just wrote a blog!! :D LOL
Si_Lee said…
@ sushant .. well said ..
and i fully agree that professionalism is needed .. just tht the efforts required to put in in this field are far greater ... it's not JUST a profession ..
(I don't quit tht easy)
Anonymous said…
The Aam janta are coxed to VOTE during elections as Responsible Citizens. With crores being spent in the elections let's give the masses too to get some returns for their valuable Votes. So, Lets have a PCX (politicians commodity index) since the Indian politicians are a tradeable, saleable and a laughing STOCK. So lets make a few good bucks on the 'P' Stocks and enjoy the fun during a recessional- election!. Bole toh vat an idea bandhuo :)
If you have an opinoin on this, you can be heard on
Shiv said…
Sushant, Thanks for your kind words.

I feel it is easy to feel disheartened at the situation that our system is. But as a reader on my other blog said, evolution takes time. While 60 years is definitely not a young nation, I feel that every thing has to reach its lowest ebb, before it rises again. I find politics very very interesting. More and more people are asking for ideologies today. Again the numbers are not huge, but is becoming substantial nevertheless. The assembly elections saw development gain over petty politics. Isn't that heartening to see?

Everywhere in the world, politics is dirty. Its just that the cocktail of dirty politics and politics driven by development, that determines how the people perceive politics. In France, people continue to strike whenever they are not happy with any decision taken by the government. In US, Bush got defeated Al Gore by manipulating laws, just because the judiciary could be manipulated. In UK and Australia, the government is still unable to control racism completely. What I am saying is, every system has its own parameters that govern its evolution. And how we evolve, break the system, and grow better, is the beauty of evolution. India is an example of the failure of democracy. And this situation, I hope, will help us surge as the world's most efficient democracy in the future.

Change will come to us. Trust me! :)
Salil Dhawan said…
I hope time comes when politicians talk about development and not about making mandir or Masjid.I still thing that weakening of two national parties has given oppurtunity to regional parties to dream big.Stability of govt and freedom with which it can initiate reform process has gone for a toss.Asking Congress which had Left earlier supporting it at the centre.These are roadblocks to development.


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