How to Become a Politician in India? (Ft. Atishi AAP)
All decent people want to maintain a ‘decent’ distance from politics because politics is seen as dirty business. Politics is seen as something where money, liquor, caste, religion all these become the basis on which people can be successful politicians. Until a few years back if someone would call me also a politician, I would cringe because that’s the image that we all have. But I think we all need to move beyond that image if we want to change the politics of our country. ‘Study or else you’ll have to become a politician!’ Parents are right to worry about us but because of this attitude of ours all sorts of wrong people are applying for this job. ‘that is 1 out of every 3 legislators (MPs or MLAs) have a.. …tainted past. Are facing serious criminal charges.’ But it’s not so bad because apart from these criminals, we’ve also had a scientist, a lawyer and an Income Tax Department officer turn into politicians just to work for our country. So if you think your name deserves to be up here among these respected politicians, then in today’s video we are going to see.. Who is a politician and what are their responsibilities? A step-by-step procedure of how to become a politician. But most importantly towards the end, I’ll give you a Bonus Tip about how you can still work for our country without being a politician. And to help us understand the ground reality we’ve also interviewed Ms. Atishi, Former Advisor to Education Minister of Delhi about her journey of moving from being a teacher to a politician. I am excited about this video. If you are too then make sure you hit that ‘like’ button. Let’s begin. Let’s start with a basic question.. Who is a Politician? I think generally you are considered a politician in India if you wear a white kurta-pyjama and walk around with body guards who have guns, is when you are considered a politician. And when politicians look like that people sort of look at them and think that we never want to enter politics. But I think anyone who works with a political party is a politician. You heard it from her. Anybody who works for a political party esp. if they contest, win elections and become an MP or MLA is called a politician. But what are politicians supposed to do? Simple. They are supposed to ensure that the government is working. They must represent our views in the parliament. Pass laws on pregnancy, education, public health, police, agriculture and irrigation, protection of wild life, pilgrimage, marriage, divorce and even burial grounds. What kind of schools we have is decided by politicians, what kind of hospitals we have is decided by politicians, whether youth have jobs, whether women are safe and secure… all these decisions are taken by politicians. And therefore it is important that good people actually come into politics. Basically, if the political structure of a country is right then it becomes liveable, which is the ‘expectation’. But if they don’t do their work correctly then there will be corruption, pollution, unemployment, violence and a bad economy.. which we all know as our ‘reality’. Even though this might look like a lot of work but to achieve this ‘expectation’ our politicians are paid very nicely. In 2015, Government spent almost 3 lakh per month per MP sitting in the parliament. Indians are known as hard-working and smart but if this is the salary of a politician then why are we running after engineering and MBBS then? So you think at 3 lakhs per month, you can do a better job then the next section is for you. The best thing about politics is that it can be joined at anytime in your life. But if you want to contest in elections then the Constitution of India states that the minimum age requirement is 25 years but unfortunately there is no minimum educational requirements to become a politician. But there is a difference between a politician and a ‘good’ politician and according to me (you may or may not agree) these are the 4 steps that will help you travel that distance. Step 1: Get Educated Let’s ask Atishi what her background and career was like before she joined politics. I taught in this school called Rishi valley for a while. I worked with educational NGOs in different parts of the country. I worked in rural Madhya Pradesh with farmers and local communities. But I guess at one point of time I had begun to feel that change needs to be bought about on a much larger scale and I decided to volunteer some of my time to do some Policy Research for ‘India Against Corruption’ movement. But this was the time when ‘India Against Corruption’ transformed into Aam Aadmi Party, so I became a volunteer who was doing policy research for Aam Aadmi Party. And in many ways AAP is like a start-up because it is a new political party, everyone does everything. So from being a volunteer who did policy research, I became part of the Media team then when required became part of campaign organisation teams and when finally the Delhi government was formed, I became an advisor the Education Minister. So multiple roles were taken on. The reason why I am saying, ‘get educated’ is because some of our fine politicians have backgrounds in Civil Services, Journalism, Law and Economics. Meira Kumar and JP Narayan were in Civil Services. Jawahar Lal Nehru and Sushma Swaraj were in the profession of law. Manish Sisodia came from Journalism. And our former PM, Dr. Manmohan Singh and Subramanian Swamy have an economy background. These careers will help you understand administration, legal framework, political systems and economy which are necessary to drive our country forward. But don’t worry, even if you are a social worker, a general manager or even a software engineer, you can still give politics a go because experts from different walks of life, entering into politics can drive some serious change. All of these careers make you disciplined, something that’s lacking in politics. Because today our MPs don’t even attend parliament meetings. To give you an example, only 4 out of 29 MPs attended the parliament meeting to discuss Delhi’s air pollution problem. The one’s missing included Hema Malini and Gautam Gambhir who instead of being in the parliament meeting was seen doing commentary for a ‘cricket match’ in Indore. Why are they taking our tax-money then?! But right now, let’s focus on you. Comment and tell me, if you become a politician… what is that one thing that you will change (or improve). I’ll be waiting to read your comments. Step 2: Know your locals Let me tell you a story. One time, me and mom went to vote and just outside the polling station a few party workers came to us and asked us….if we voted? We said, ‘not yet’. So they asked us our concerns, promised us water, roads and asked us to vote for their party. After we were done voting, a set of another party workers from the same party came to us. We thought, even they will ask us our concerns. They first asked, ‘Did you vote?’ We said yes … and then they walked away. That’s the sad state of politicians in our country. They talk to us just minutes before the voting and after we have voted they figuratively and literally, walk away. See, education is important but more than that it is important to know the people that you will be representing because finally any politician is a representative of the people. And it is their responsibility to represent the interest of their voters, their constituency, their city, their state in the legislative assembly and in the parliament. Obviously, if someone is representing an Adivasi area of Madhya Pradesh then chances are that they are themselves coming from an Adivasi background, they’ve not had access to the kind of education facilities, higher education facilities that we may have living in Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and bigger cities. They probably know far more about the problems of Adivasis of Madhya Pradesh than people like us who are coming from bigger cities. And therefore, their voice is equally important even if they don’t have the same kind of educational background that may of us have. So I think that really is the core of it that a representative should be honestly and truly representing the interests of people who have voted for them is what we need for a successful democracy. Just a couple of months back, we were in Delhi to attend a Youtube event and on our way back to the airport, our Uber driver told us this.. ‘The Govt schools here are cleaner than private schools.. even teachers are disciplined and care about their students… ..It was unbelievable for me at first, that this place where I have enrolled my daughter, is a ‘Government’ school… ..My daughter is so smart. She came 2nd in her class.. The Mohalla clinics here provide you with medicines for whatever small sickness you have… ..be it fever, body pains, itching. Even if you have to get blood tests done, everything is done at Mohalla Clinics.’ Look, I am not a blind fan of the Kejriwal government, infact, I’ve had my apprehensions. But when I see the Aam Aadmi Party being so connected to their locals, I wish politicians all across our country would do the same. AAP is providing world-class education at Government schools, improving transportation, empowering women, improving health care. Everyday I hope that there is atleast one positive news from the rest of the politicians. But all I see is something like this… or this. Step 3: Join Politics Now, if you want to join politics, you can do one of these 2 things.. #1: Continue with your career and the President will appoint you in the ‘Rajya Sabha’ for your contributions in Art, Science, Literature and Social Service. For example, in the Rajya Sabha, we have Mary Kom representing sports. Narendra Jadhav, an economist. We’ve also had Dr. Zakir Hussain (an Educationist), Javed Akhtar (an artist) and many more who have been exceptional in their careers. But if you don’t want to do this and want to directly enter into politics then you can apply to be a ‘volunteer’ in a political party. After a few years, they might give you a ticket to contest in elections and if you win, you will become an MP in the ‘Lok Sabha’. So I think we really don’t have any ‘entry barriers’. I think the only thing we really ask for is commitment, that if you commit an ‘X’ amount of time we would want you to do that much work. Ofcourse there is always a preference for full-time volunteers and anyone who is willing to give all of their time, we are happy to take them. Personally, I think ‘commitment’ is the quality that matters the most. But the question is, do political parties pay their volunteers? Atleast in the political party that I work in, in Aam Aadmi Party, we are always hand to mouth. We are barely managing to meet our own expenses because most political funding in India is seen as a quid pro quo basis that if someone (a company, a business or a corporation) funds a political party then the expectation is when the party will come in power, it will ‘help’ the corporation/company that funded it in return. If we are looking for clean funding, which AAP is doing from the time it has been formed, it is definitely a challenge because you are going to people and saying that we will not give you something in return but we want you to support this political cause. So far in India, there is very little culture of donating money to political parties. So as the party has less money therefore it’s a challenge, how do you support volunteers? There are some volunteers who are supported by their own family, there are some volunteers who work part-time with the party and part-time do something to earn money. There are some volunteers whose basic requirements might be supported by the party. So I think that there is no one fixed answer. We try and find whatever solution that works for everyone’s specific context. Step 4: Develop a thick skin Okay. Finally, let’s address the elephant in the room. Politicians are not known to have a moral compass, which makes politics risky. Those who are part of the existing system are going to hit back at you in some form or the other. Be it in terms of character assassination, be it in terms of trolls, be it in terms of my sacking as an advisor. So I think that as someone who is trying to bring about change, the more I get attacked, the happier I am because it means I must be doing something right. If no one was attacking me then it means that I am not being successful in changing the system. Fine. You want to change the system.. but if there is so much risk, why would anyone want to enter politics? You increasingly see in the career path something called as a ‘mid-life crisis’ where people reach the age of 40 and begin to wonder… ‘What have I done in my life?’ At the end of a 20, 30, 40 year old career you want to feel like you have done something with your life, that you could change something with your work; and I think that is really where social activism, political activism, politics can provide you with that opportunity. In 5 years, I could touch the lives of more than 16 Lakh Children (Woah!) and I think that at the end of the day, at the end of this 5 years, while I don’t know what’s going to happen next in my political career or in the future trajectory of my party but atleast I have the satisfaction of knowing that the work I have done in the past 7-8 years has had so much impact on such a large number of people. Yes, it is a risk. It is a less defined path. But the returns in terms of the kind of impact that one can have are much higher. So those were the 4 steps according to us. But let’s ask Atishi what according to her are some qualities you need to develop to become a politician. This is a process of a much longer change.. So I think ‘perseverance’ is important. People who are coming from all kinds of educational backgrounds, all kinds of social backgrounds, to try and understand their world views, to related to them…I think that really requries both empathy and patience. Just learning to work at odd hours is important because as a politician someone can call you at 5:00AM and say, ‘There is no water supply in my locality!’ and you can’t tell them that I am fast asleep and therefore I will not look at your problem because, well they are not getting water in their locality…so someone has to do something about it. I think that when you are a politician, you have to look at many competing interests. So for example, if you are talking about electricity supply, you have to look at the fact that everybody gets access to electricity but you also have to look at the fact that how do you ensure that there is no (or least) environmental damage. The activist who says no power plants, no thermal power plants because they cause pollution is not wrong. The citizen who says that they want 24X7 electricity is also not wrong. So, 2 right pulls and pushes leading in opposite directions, how they are to be balanced, I think that is job that a politician and a policy-maker needs to do. In Global Hunger Index, India ranks 102 among 117 countries. GDP is at 5%. Unemployment rates are high. People don’t have jobs or even clean air to breathe. But what are we voting on? Mahatma Gandhi said.. ‘You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean… …If a few drops are dirty, the ocean doesn’t become dirty.’ I agree with him but how long will we let politicians ‘divide’ us and ‘distract’ us in the name of religion. So I think first of all, something like the Aam Aadmi Party is an interesting example of how people have voted beyond cast and religion. Not only did AAP win in 2015, we won with a landslide majority. I think there is a lot of people who don’t realise that the vote that they cast in the election has a direct impact on the school their child goes to, the water they get, the cleanliness in their locality, the jobs that are available when their children pass out of school and college and this link needs to be developed in people’s mind. I think that as citizens, as media persons, as a YT channel, I think all of us are responsible for engaging with voters on this. This is not the job only of a politician. So today’s bonus tip is this.. If you want to work for our country as a leader, without being a politician, then all you need to do is.. vote right and encourage others to vote right. Share this video with them, if it helps. Let’s vote for politicians who are working to make this our reality and not the one’s who are full of…..excuses. We at The Urban Fight believe that education is the most important thing and that is why we interviewed Ms. Atishi because we agree with her views on education. No country that we now consider developed be it USA, Canada, England, all western European countries.. all these developed countries have ‘developed’ on the basis of a High-Quality Public Education System where everyone has access to ‘high-quality education’ irrespective of their ability to pay. So I think that if we are looking for our country to prosper, for our country to grow, for our country to grow economically then a high-quality education for every child in this country is important. I hope you’ve enjoyed and learnt something from this video. On that note, don’t forget to ‘subscribe’ and hit that ‘bell’ icon. I am going to see you again in the next video, until then.. Keep fighting, The Urban Fight to be Fit!