A politician is generally defined as a person who is ‘professionally’ involved in politics, especially as a holder of an elected office. However, almost all dictionaries also give the following meaning to the word ‘politician’, ‘a person who acts in a manipulative and devious way, typically to gain advancement within an organisation [country, too]. Without an iota of doubt I believe most of our politicians, in fact, all politicians of South Asia fit very well into the second part of the definition.
In this land of the pure what is legally inheritable, like share of women in property, is not given in inheritance but is consciously denied; while what cannot be bequest to any, is given in inheritance — political office. Political office requires experience, training and patience. Those devoid of these virtues go on to occupy highly placed electable positions, with almost no political intellect or necessary background in education to match the claim to office.
Inheriting and being ‘elected’ (usually engineered) to a political office is a malaise of the developing world, but it is more so in Asian countries starting from Pakistan to the Philippines. The dilemma wouldn’t be so grievous if the progeny possessed basic talent, knowledge, skill, wisdom and the art of understanding human behaviour. It is a complete lack of such qualities that renders the inheritors to be such bad examples.
In our case barring Benazir Bhutto, the inheritors have all been of below average competence. For the last 40 years, we are witnessing that those who were born in the lap of dictators, have become self-styled democrats — in reality they ruthlessly heap scorn on the populace that ‘elects/ ‘selects’ them. The political families act as ‘Royals’ with entitlements of having ‘subjects’, who bow to individuals half their age and who in intelligence do not know the A to B of politics or legislature. It is doubted if they have read the Constitution of Pakistan, understanding it is another far cry. Most enter into the highest executive function, without any administrative experience. Prime Ministers are akin to being Chief Executive Officers, and hence must have grasp over wide variety of areas, including the peculiar functioning of the bureaucracy.
Winston Churchill, however flawed may have been his policies and opinion, stands out as the greatest Prime Minister Britain has ever produced. He was a well read man. He had an amazing sense of humour — crisp and witty. His impromptu rebuffs ad rebuttals are classic pieces of satirical literature. Churchill could take on any politician on the floor of the Commons, with class and intelligence. Contrastingly, in our political arena, the rebuttals we get to hear in electronic media or read in the print media are so different, due to the lowly educated politicians. From the responses they give it is apparent that they are leaders, who are not readers. Churchill possessed arsenic-laced wit. His memoirs running into six volumes (hard cover) and 12 volumes (paperback) earned him a Nobel prize for literature. In our last 75 years did we have any leader, barring Jinnah and Bhutto, who could have claim to have been well read? Neither Churchill’s nor Margaret Thatcher’s son or daughter became prime minister of Britain despite inheriting their intelligence which was also backed by quality educational qualifications.
Searching on Google about the educational qualifications of a Vice President of a major political party I found PhD, which was bracketed by the following word ‘disputed’. Sporting Hermes and Fendi scarves, or carrying a Chanel/Gucci bag with the vulgarly studded diamond and gold watches does not confer upon any the right to rule over the hapless poverty-stricken people. If Hina Rabbani was loaded in designer accessories, it did not matter much, because being a Masters from London School of Economics (LSE), she had a lot of grey matter to match and support the exhibitionism — she has intelligence and charisma to back the indulgence. This is not to suggest that she has a licence for abhorrent ostentatious display.
Both Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Mohandas Karamchund Gandhi were renowned lawyers before they jumped into politics.
Jinnah had established credentials of being the best lawyer in the Bombay Presidency after having schooled himself with excellence from the prestigious Lincoln’s Inn (London). He practiced law before joining politics. Jinnah, Liaquat Ali Khan, Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru were not merely politicians but were visionaries. They shared a common dream to see a free India. Jinnah had vision for a separate Muslim homeland. In these pursuits, they were not concerned in amassing wealth for themselves — despite being rich in their own personal right they never flaunted wealth; instead their public life was one of simplicity, sincerity and unalloyed humility.
In the context of South Asia almost all countries have experienced hereditary politics. In Sri Lanka, it was first the Bandarnaike’s family and later, more recently the Rajapaksha’s, who at one time had 9 members of the family as part of the cabinet where one brother was the President of the country and the other was prime minister. People’s power finally threw them out. Hopefully, it would end dynastic politics there.
Bangladesh has been ruled for almost 3 decades by 2 ambitious women, one of whom inherited the office from her husband and the other from her father. Hasina Wajed graduated with honours from Dhaka university and has been awarded several honorary PhDs by prestigious universities. In the Philippines, 34 years after the senior Marcos was deposed, we have his son the junior Marcos occupying the presidential office.
India in spite of being the largest democracy of the world has not been able to remove the fetters of family domination at New Delhi. Indira Gandhi as the daughter of the first prime minister of India assumed the mantle of premiership by virtue of her education and training under the watchful eyes of her father, Jawaharlal Nehru. Indira Gandhi, like her father, was a graduate from Cambridge. Nehru trained her for the more as a philosopher than a politician. Nehru was a well-read man, who authored several books. He actually wrote them himself — no ghost writers! Indira Gandhi never wore designer accessories neither does her daughter-in-law, Sonia Gandhi, the widow of Rajiv Gandhi. The saris are of mostly coarse cotton. Rahul is dressed mostly in Kurta and Pyjama — yet they are giant political leaders. They do not need crutches like having to adorn vulgar and despicable watches and jewellery. Akin to the Nehru- Indira duo is our own version of Bhutto-Benazir. She with a bachelors from Harvard (Radcliff College) and from there to Oxford for another Bachelor in comparative government coupled with a course in international law and diplomacy made her claim to inherit as chairperson of her father’s party justified. The Sharif brothers are reportedly graduates. The niece of the PM has a Bachelors in English literature (believe it or not) and a (disputed) PhD, in political science. This education does not find reflection in responses to political situations is more a matter of training and experience.
Politicians deny education to the electorate. Therein is the trick to remain in perpetual power. Aristotle’s Book VIII of the Politics opens with a famous exhortation: ‘No one will doubt that the legislature should direct his attention above all to the education of youth; for the neglect of education does harm to the constitution.’ The citizen should be molded to suit the form of government under which he lives. The centrality of this idea/concept is that education must be made available at all levels from schoolchildren to adults, for it is education that contributes to the flourishment of the society/country. Alexander the Great, the son of a king but tutored by the wisdom of Aristotle who would often ruefully remark, if he achieved nothing constructive during the day ‘I have not reigned today’.
Rhetoric is not the highway to take for becoming a politician of substance. Politicians with skills in demagoguery influence opinion and never protect ’truth’ — in fact spreading false narratives is their creed. Their speeches are extraneous to the issues of the masses. They pander to the negative traits of their audience. They present things to the masses where the appeal is to be violent, prejudiced and to remain perpetually Ill informed.
Augustine of Hippo (354-430 CE) had famously said: ‘if justice be taken away what are governments but great bands of robbers’. Politicians of this ilk look at the end and justify all the means regardless of whether they are within the ambit legality. They do not believe in praising the right and blaming the wrong, instead they defend tooth and nail a contrary thought.
Recently, the media has been reporting that one such political family comprising young lads too were huddled together to decide issues of national importance. Here, where their seniors have no sound idea of geostrategic issues, let alone military strategy involving possession of nuclear force, what quality of contribution can be expected from these uninitiated novices? The saddest spectacle is to see the senior politicians (uncles and aunties) bowing down to these nincompoops. The mercurial majestic, Aitzaz Ahsan is the only exception — he doesn’t mince either his words or thoughts. A bold man, in current context, where the price of speaking truth is either regular visitations to the police stations or a paid vacation to a Kenyan shooting ranch.
In conclusion to this piece I quote with great pleasure and seriousness, “Yet if a man is a slave, his own will is responsible for his slavery… . Hence the wrong of slavery lies at the door not of enslavers or conquerers but of the slaves and the conquered themselves…’ (Hegel)Sirajuddin Aziz, "Politicians by inheritance," Business recorder. 2022-11-16.
Keywords: Political sciences , Electronic media , Hereditary politics , Nobel prize , Politics , Economics , Aitzaz Ahsan , Benazir Bhutto , Liaquat Ali Khan , Gandhi , South Asia , India , CE , LSE