It's the spirit that matters

Many in India think that ageing politicians should bow out of office.  I am not an exception to this belief. Still, when I meet a few politicians or see or read about top business honchos, the arguments favouring retirement become uncertain.

In this Lok Sabha election season, I met B S Yeddyurappa and H D Deve Gowda, the two senior politicians of Karnataka. I happened to observe the road shows and 'janata darbar' of AAP's Aravind Kejriwal, in Bangalore and Chikballapur. One common streak I noticed in them is their commitment to whatever they are professing. They look so passionate, involved and dedicated to whatever they are doing. I do not deny that they have their personal goals to score. Goal-less life or career can mean nothing, in my opinion. Still, the way they work relentlessly leaves me baffled.  I wonder whether any of their juniors in their respective parties can match their energy, determination and enthusiasm.

What keeps these leaders going through the day? JD (S) supremo Deve Gowda is 80 and Yeddyurappa is 77.  And, Kejriwal is just 45. All are diabetic. Gowda has many age-related issues. He keeps gulping medicines. Yeddyurappa keeps getting admitted to hospital whenever his sugar level shoots up. Thanks to television, the whole country is able to watch how Kejriwal copes with his bronchial problem. During one of his visits to Bangalore, he had to wind up his road show abruptly due to health issues. But within hours, he bounced back with his trademark smile on his face. Spirited talk went on between him and his followers till midnight.

Both Gowda and Yeddyurappa stick to their vegetarian diets. Both prefer home prepared food. Yeddyurappa's day begins at 5 am and he hits the sack only after 11 pm. He never skips his morning walk for one hour, after reading the newspapers. This is religiously done wherever he is. When he was the chief minister, he used to do walk-the-talk with officers around Vidhana Soudha in the mornings.  There is no word called relaxation in his dictionary.

Once I saw Deve Gowda sitting in a massage therapy chair in his daughter's house and engaged in a long conversation with his party workers. But I had never heard him discussing about his health issues or advancing age, with the media. Surprisingly, he mentioned about his health and age when I and my colleague had a long interaction with him in this poll season.  Curiously, he said age does not permit him to be on his legs all the time but within 48 hours after that, he was on the streets of Hassan! In an open SUV, he conducted a road show and addressed meetings. All these he did when some Congress leaders mischievously talked about political future of his two MLA sons. 

One more leader who can join this workaholic category is Karnataka Legislative Assembly Speaker Kagodu Thimmappa. The 83-year-old Kagodu is addicted to tour and work. It is amazing to see the manner in which he conducts the official business of the Assembly. Unlike many of his predecessors, those who are much younger to him, he sits through the session every day from 11 am till late in the evenings. I saw him being attentive to the papers laid before him even when the House proceedings went past 9 pm, in Suvarna Vidhana Soudha at Belgaum. He does not dump his work on the Deputy Speaker to snatch a couple of hours' break. It is not just sitting through the sessions. He gets totally involved in the House business. He brings the MLAs back on track when their debates or arguments go off on a tangent.

Kagodu's assistants say that when he is at his constituency, Sagar, his tour begins before 8 am and ends only around 7 or 8 pm. He visits villages, interacts with the people and tries to find solutions to their problems.  Remember, unlike Deve Gowda, Yeddyuarappa or Kejriwal, Kagodu does not have the killer ambition to become something in politics. All he aspired at this stage of his career was just to be in the Siddaramaiah Cabinet but even that did not materialise.

What keeps these leaders going? The answer could be the burning desire for power, fame, position, money and so on. But in the case of octogenarian Kagodu or fairly a young leader such as Kejri, money is not the driving point. In the case of Gowda and Yeddyurappa, they want their kith and kin to remain in politics as power centres. But similar ambition is nurtured other state leaders such as Siddaramaiah,  R V Deshpande, Veerappa Moily, Udasi, and Gurupadappa Nagamarapalli. They have not evolved as mass leaders though Siddaramaiah is an exception.  I am also aware of the fact that a majority of politicians who have emerged as mass leaders are not like self-made billionaires such as Warren Buffett, 83  or Ratan Tata, 77 who still dream of creating lakhs of jobs.  But we can't do without political bosses.

I see many politicians - middle aged to young - keeping themselves busy through the day. But they are not dedicating their time to the party or for a cause. They are not passionate about what they are doing. A majority of them do their bit of work only to keep themselves floating in politics or keep their domain safe or to keep their wealth growing. They go on long holidays assuming that their body needs rest. They can't miss their siesta. Call them in the afternoon, the stock reply from their assistants would be "sahebru rest madthidaare' (Boss is resting). We can't disturb him in the afternoons... when he wakes up, we will try to inform him that you had called..."  On most occasions, the calls are not returned. Yes. Karnataka has not seen the emergence of Kejriwals in the recent decades. Kejriwal did not become a hero overnight. He worked towards it, hard.     

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