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Monday, Nov 03, 2003

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Training politicians

B. S. Raghavan

AMONG all political parties that I have known and observed, the Paattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) of Tamil Nadu under the leadership of Dr Ramadoss has begun to appeal to me more and more. This is because it is a party which has shown itself capable of introspection and reinventing itself, by boldly changing its policies and moulding public opinion in the right direction. Of course, it can occasionally go off at a tangent as when it came up with a scheme to carve a separate State out of Tamil Nadu bringing together areas where the Vanniyars are in a majority, but these are aberrations. By and large, in recent years, it has articulated social concerns far better than any other party.

This is surprising because some 15-20 years ago when it stepped into the political arena, it started off with a thoroughly ugly image as a party given to burning of buses, destruction of public property, going on a reckless spree felling shade-giving trees on highways, indulging in bloody caste feuds and other acts of violence. Now there is no greater champion of planting of trees, conservation of energy and water, maintenance and upkeep of public property and other public causes than the PMK. It took my breath away when in 2001, it came out with a meticulously researched and documented report on State finances urging strict control over public expenditure and going so far as to suggest scaling down of subsidies — a course that conventional political parties regard as their death-knell. Altogether, it is showing signs of an enlightened approach of service to society at large.

In tune with this turnaround is Dr Ramadoss' plea for training aspirants to politics and average politicians to equip them to play their role as servants of the people and manage the parties and deal with political issues in a professional manner. No sooner said than done: He has already set up training camps with well-designed modules for sensitising PMK's cadres to principles of modern management.

To appreciate just how timely and urgent the proposal of Dr Ramadoss is, one needs only to look at the turmoil in which the Tamil Nadu Congress lands itself over some issue or other. No politician with a modicum of management training would have handled with such lack of finesse the latest episode involving the issue of notices to two Congress MLAs for their allegedly joining the chorus of welcome to the AIADMK chief, Ms Jayalalithaa. Similarly, the party pros of the BJP too have shown themselves to be wanting in managerial skills. Most politicians can also do with some grooming, when compared with the impressively slick and smart leaders of other democracies.

The idea of putting politicians through their paces has not come a day too soon, and Dr Ramadoss deserves to be complimented for mooting it.

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