Suppose you were to go up to your parents and tell them that you want to study for a management degree and that it is your ambition to go into politics; can you guess what their reaction would be?
Yes, they are likely to hit the roof or at the very least, they will tell you that you would be wasting your education. When you come to think of it, ‘waste’ seems to be rather a strange word to use in connection with a political career because a politician does require all the things that are taught in a MBA class.
It is a no-brainer that politics needs professionals – educated people who are dedicated to the cause of service to the nation (idealistic though that may sound). At present, we all know the state of politicians in the country. While we do not want to generalise or unnecessarily vilify them, it is an indisputable fact many of them go into it because either they belong to political families or because they think, it is the easiest way to power.
Politics is a very noble profession and I would say that it is a vocation on the lines of nursing, medicine or social service. Politics is about representing the people; politics is about development; politics is about able administration; politics is about raising awareness; politics is about advocacy.
It is unfortunate that what drives many people to politics are all for the wrong reasons – power, money, greed etc. But, that is not the fault of the profession; that is more to do with the people who go into it.
However, the purpose of this blog is not to promote politics as a profession but to dwell on the qualities needed to be an able politician and how they harmonise with your B-School curriculum.
Let us take the attributes one by one.
Leadership: When you join politics, you will probably join as a party worker at the grassroots level. What you do, how you do it, your ability to work your way up (much as in the corporate sector, here also there is a hierarchy to climb) and your influence within the party and the people among whom you work will all depend on your leadership skills and capacity to inspire. It is very important to impress your leadership talent on the citizens, because they are the ones who will ultimately choose you as their representative.
Managing People: Politics is a rough game and as in any corporate set-up, everyone is trying to get ahead and push their way to the top. You have to be able to manage various sets of people – your co-workers, your peers, your party bosses and of course those whom you are serving (I mean the people and not your political masters).
Teamwork: As the recent elections have shown, for a party to succeed, it is necessary for the entire team to swing together. The BharatiyaJanata Party had only one star in its pack (NarendraModi) but the cadre worked together to impress upon the people that voting them to power would bring about change in the country. Using the same argument, we can say that it was lack of teamwork that led to the Congress party’s rout in the general elections.
Planning a Long-term Strategic Campaign: Politics is one of the few professions where you have to plan for the long-term. Unlike as in other vocations, a single act of brilliance will not get you anywhere. It has to be a sustained effort. You have to start your campaign strategy in advance, if you want to stand for elections and aim to be a legislator. The planning has to be meticulous, detailed and factor in unforeseen circumstances among others. You have to consider your rivals (both within the party and outside), your competitors, gauge the mood of the electorate and weave all that in your campaign strategy. It is like bringing a product to the market.
Having a Global Vision: Present-day politicians rarely have a vision, unless it is that of enriching themselves, cynical as that may sound. When you think of the older generation such as Jawaharlal Nehru, LalBahadurShastri, Sardar Patel etc., you know that they had a grand vision for India. Unless you have a vision your work will be meaningless and without any purpose. Think of Arvind Kejriwal when he started the AamAdmi Party – it was to rid India of corruption.
Using Statistics and Data Analysis to Predict Poll results and Outcome: We know that India is a land of demographic, cultural and religious diversity. This diversity, while enriching, is also a reason for confusion because nobody votes in a cohesive fashion. This will require you to track the voting patterns of the various segments over the years, create a trend analysis, extrapolate those results for the medium and long-term and then forecast your chances of victory or loss and the margins thereof. During elections, you will need all the data crunching at your disposal and on a real-time basis that will enable you to know where you stand.
Raising Funds: Your clout in the organisation/party is directly proportional to your ability to raise funds. Every party looks for a steady source of funding and if you can ensure that, your position in the party is assured.
Management of Funds: As you rise up the hierarchy in a party, you will be responsible for management of funds in the particular area where you work. Later, if you are elected and become a Member of Parliament or that of a legislative assembly then the government will give you funds to use for the development of your constituency. How you use these funds and put them to work will test your funds management expertise.
Deploying Resources and Using them Efficiently: People, money and your own reserves (of skills, assets etc.) are the resources that you have. You have to deploy them intelligently and efficiently if you want to see the returns that you seek. In the case of politics, returns are invariable measured in terms of your vote-catching abilities and whether you manage to retain the seat for your party.
As you can see, a political career is not much different from a corporate career and the skills and domain expertise that you will learn in a B-School can be equally used to further your career as a politician.
So, politics anyone?
Contributed by Disha Parekh Mohanty