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Lateral Entry


Lateral entry into politics of people who have distinguished themselves in other fields does not always work well. The classic examples in the present are of Yashwant Sinha and Shatrughan Sinha, who enjoyed high ministerial posts in BJP governments, yet selfdestructed because of what can best be described as ego problems. They just could not accept the coming to power of newbies they thought did not deserve power over them. Now, Prashant Kishor and Pavan Verma of the JD(U) have been shown the door for not knowing their place. Of course, the classic example of one who greatly benefited from direct induction was Manmohan Singh of the Congress, who enjoyed two stints as Prime Minister, but ultimately presided over the decline of the party. Now, the latest to take a shine to politics is badminton player Sania Nehwal, who joined the BJP on Wednesday. If she proves enough of a vote-winner, she can expect a long innings, but she would do well to learn from the experience of other celebrity inductees.

One of those who managed to build upon his political career was, of course, Vinod Khanna, who managed not only to retain his seat but also walk the fine line between celebrity and public service. If carefully, handled, the pull of stardom can be retained even while facing the demands of meeting constituents’ expectations. It is a fact that the new element of social media has made this task more difficult, as it provides an opportunity to comment on every subject, but does not impart the wisdom required to do so. As such, taking a stand on an issue that goes against the party line can balloon into, at best, embarrassment. At worst, it can lead to confrontation and expulsion.

In all spheres of life, loyalty is one of the most essential qualities needed to succeed. One may not realise this but people can see through any pretence at principled behaviour when it is actually pretence to pursue one’s personal interests. Added to an over-inflated ego, an overweening sense of self-importance, and arrogance, it can bring down even the best ‘performers’. Those who look upon the common people as gullible or lacking discernment end up on the sidelines of the big leagues. Of course, smart operators can take calculated risks in changing sides and come out on top but, at best, it can be done once or twice. It cannot become a habit, as seen in reports of Shatrughan Sinha now cosying up to the Samajwadi Party, after having contested on the Congress ticket. The odd Padma award as pay off does not compensate for the ultimate loss of credibility.