Trust Raj Thackeray to be different. He wants his party men not to be bumbling fools when on the job; he wants them to be smart and informed. It is not clear whether the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief’s latest idea to have written tests for his party’s wannabe corporators would produce a batch of efficient and honest people serious about the city, but it surely is an interesting experiment.
The test is on Sunday and the aspirants are busy burning the midnight oil for it. Thackeray has already warned that no hanky panky will be tolerated. So, no copying, no looking at other people’s answer sheets and no sending a proxy to write the exams. The candidates are expected to be thorough about the party and the functioning of civic bodies. The written test would be followed by a screening interview.
As innovative thinking goes, this one deserves some applause. The MNS chief says this exercise would change the people’s perception of politicians. “People should know their nominees are capable and efficient… The conventional methods of choosing candidates must go,” he feels. He wants to use the same experiment in the assembly polls.
In the overwhelming climate of distrust of everything about a politician— his abilities, his intelligence, his grooming, his honesty, and what not — such moves could serve as a confidence-building measure.
Remember that ganwaar, anpaadh bit from actor Om Puri during Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption campaign at Ramlila Maidan? Well the derogatory reference to politicians could actually be the opinion of the entire middle class.
We have come to a point where the political class badly needs to resurrect its respectability. It cannot afford to be seen as a class which is mentally ill-equipped to take decisions for people who are possibly far better qualified than them. Also, it cannot be seen as a group which does not know its job and exercises power far disproportionate to its level of competency.
There’s no guarantee that Thackeray’s idea would stop throwing up dishonest, immoral corporators from his own party — in any case it’s too small an effort at this point, in the news because of its curiosity value — but it contains the germ of an idea that could be developed into something more effective.
The would-be politicians should be imparted long training on different aspects of administration and finances. At the lower levels, in particular, it is easy for a bureaucrat to talk technicalities and mislead a politician boss. If there’s corruption happening under his nose, the politician has no skills to detect that, simply because he is ignorant of procedures and processes.
Much of the failure of the political parties at the lowest level — where it actually matters, politically and otherwise — has to do with lack of knowledge.
This has to change. Political parties should organise elaborate training camps for their upcoming leaders. It’s still better if such training is institutionalised. Why not have training schools for budding politicians?
However, for that politics needs to be less unwieldy and more organised than it is now. It has to be treated as a serious career option with remuneration matching abilities. This is the only way we can get intelligent and earnest people in politics.
Given the ground realities of our polity, such initiatives are easier said than implemented. These have to be preceded by a mindset change and a consensus on the need to get out of the rot.
For now, it is best of luck to the MNS aspirants. Hope they mug it right.