Monday, April 19, 2010

Lateral entrants in Indian politics

Shankarshan Thakur on what a lateral entrant to politics needs to do to succeed:

At the top of the [success] pole is Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, an economist-technocrat, who seemed to have absorbed the cardinal rules of khadi before donning them: never menace your master. Singh has served three party bosses, an equal number of Prime Ministers and looks set to become the longest reigning head of government since Jawaharlal Nehru himself.

As India’s best-educated helmsman, Singh has eminent qualifications for high office, but it can be argued that what brought him and keeps him where he is has only little to do with his erudition; it is about his grasp of the norms of public conduct and the in-house rules of the Congress of unambiguous hierarchy and, under Sonia Gandhi, of perceived morality too.

At the bottom end of this pole, of course, is Shashi Tharoor:

[Tharoor] appears to have donned khadi with the intention of imposing his own ethic — and sense of humour — on the essential fabric of Indian politics. He has publicly taunted the austerity regime, tweeted close to insubordination and against strong advice, bravely lectured Nehru’s foreign policy, blithely fiddled with key and established formulations of Indian diplomatese and, lately, worn the proliferating stains on his credibility variously as badge of honour and proof of being unfairly profaned.

Tharoor has spent so much of his first year in the business tempting the noose that he must have felt entitled to believe he had mastered the great Indian rope trick.