The Indian Economy Blog

January 12, 2006

Why Does India Have Such Poor Politicians? – 1

A V Rajwade, in an op-ed in the Business Standard complains that the economy’s changing, but leaders aren’t. He covers many of the things we’ve discussed here on IEB — among them, the re-emergence of manufacturing & the (somewhat) increased interest in agriculture. However, to me the most interesting portion was this tidbit at the end…

Tailpiece: I began the New Year with a laugh when I put on the NDTV India news channel at 8.00 AM last Monday. It showed a Leftist leader, with the usual scowl and world-weariness on his face (remarkably similar to many RSS bigshots), denouncing the finance minister for wanting to divest equity in some profit making PSUs, to get a few thousand crores, when he is sitting on PSU reserves totaling more than Rs 2,60,000 crore. Unfortunately, I could not get his name — but he was not one of the usual suspects like Sitaram Yechuri, Karat or AB Bardhan. He seemed to be under an impression that company reserves are held in the form of currency notes or bank deposits. With such a constituency to satisfy, it is no wonder at all that the Left has to take the completely illogical stances it often does!

No wonder also that former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha has remarked, “The quality of people in politics is very poor…very few understand economics and those who do are unpopular. It would be difficult to take up reforms unless the rank and file of political parties believes in reforms.” (emphasis mine)

Politics and venal politicians have been much-discussed issues — on IEB, and of course, in every home across the land. Which raises the question: why on earth is India saddled with such inept and crooked politicians? I will attempt to answer that in a follow-up post.


  1. [...] of the things we’ve discussed here on IEB ie, the re-emergence of manufacturing, the (somewhat) increased interest in agriculture but to me the most revealing bit was at the end.. Ta [...]

    Pingback by The Indian Economy Blog » Blog Archive » Why Does India Have Such Poor Politicians? - 1 — January 12, 2006 @ 1:20 am

  2. [...] emphasis mine) Politics and venal politicians have been much-discussed issues — on IEB, and of course, in every home across the land. Which raises the question: why on earth is Indi [...]

    Pingback by The Indian Economy Blog » Blog Archive » Why Does India Have Such Poor Politicians? - 1 — January 12, 2006 @ 1:22 am

  3. If I have to give an answer to this in one short sentence, it will be “lack of quality education in the schools”. This is a result of the very attitude of our education system to ignore the subject of economics altogether in the schools.

    Comment by Krish — January 12, 2006 @ 5:53 am

  4. I guess we get the leaders we deserve?

    Comment by Subheer — January 12, 2006 @ 8:55 pm

  5. With respect – The title of your post ” Why does India have such poor politicians” is a tad off.
    Since [Poor] these buggers are not.
    Why does India have such – Inept, corrupt, avaricious, bottom feeders as politicians? would be more appropriate.

    Great blog by the way.

    Comment by Subheer — January 12, 2006 @ 9:10 pm

  6. It is not only India, my friend, but almost many, if not all,countries have poor politicians.
    As you happen to be in India u may feel that Indian politicians are poor.Politicians anywhere in the world are after power.Let us remember that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely to quote George Orwell.We are conditioned to think that politicians are meant to solve all our problems including religious,social,cultural ones in addition to political ones but they are naturally very far from doing anything of the sort.We may also appreciate that most of their time is spent on getting elected,making friends and contacts, taking steps to strengthen their own party positions and plan their little and big schemes to advance in the power structure.When we realise this we dont ask such dumb questions like why we have poor politicians? why the grass is green?and such types.
    The question to be asked is how best we can use our poor politicians, how to get the best out of them?People as a whole shall learn this art and practice this.In advanced countries they do this and we leave things to fate.So the solutions lie in our backyards while we go on searching the whole

    Comment by mscrao — January 17, 2006 @ 8:46 pm

  7. The Indian politician is from India, not from Mars. Indians collectively give birth to the politicians, Indians rear them, Indian vote for them. It is all made in India by Indian voters. The fact that Indian politicians are corrupt, immoral, greedy, ignorant, illiterate, etc, is because fundamentally those who elect them are themselves such. I make the case that the Indian voters are corrupt..

    Of course some patriotic and honest Indians may be offended by this proposition. However this proposition has within it the solution: change the voter and you will change the quality of the elected officials.

    {Comment reposted since the last time I messed up the link.}

    Comment by Atanu Dey — January 20, 2006 @ 8:22 am

  8. Reading Atanu Dey’s comment, I thought of latest Economist article on consumers and economic theory – because the theory does not match consumers, economic theory practitioners want consumers to change.

    You can’t wish away voters.

    India has bad politicians because they are not accountable to anything. There is no system of holding a politician accountable – our free media does not hold them accountable (when was the last time one has seen a local paper report on how a local MLA or a MP voted on economic or social issue?); the political leadership, drowning in sycophancy, don’t hold them accountable; the apparently educated people do not hold them accountable – even if they are interested public activity (which I doubt the majority care about) and in voting.

    Beyond that, the multi-party system dilutes the responsibility of any single party. Everyone politician can play the blame game without actually proposing and achieving results.

    You guys are close observers of Indian economy – do you know which MP voted how during the last parliament session on economic related bills? But we, educated and avid followers of all things Indian, are ready to blame the illiterate voters – who don’t know what is going on beyond their local any way.

    Comment by Chandra — January 20, 2006 @ 10:39 am

  9. [...] endacious politicians are a proximate issue. It would be far more useful to figure out why India is saddled with such terrible politicians? After all [...]

    Pingback by The Indian Economy Blog » Blog Archive » Why Does India Have Such Terrible Politicians?- - 2 — February 15, 2006 @ 6:17 am

  10. Well i believe that it has been because of historical reasons, the french had their revolution where they massacred the ruling class, the americans had a revolution which toppled the ruling elite. All nations big and small (who have less corrupt politicos) had their own share of revolutions where people were asked to quit and even killed. India never had a revolution of that sort. Here we either had riots where we killed our own brethren or we had those non violent type protests which never harmed anyone. Because of all this a politician knows that no matter what he does there is no retribution by the society. And therefore we have the corruption inclined people who think they can get away with anything if they become politicians. The normal non corrupt person is scared to be in politics cos he knows he will be harassed and his family will not be spared. so he stays out of politics. this has woven a cycle. A cycle which will not be broken unless we have some really muscle flexing types people who still are honest. The only non corrupt politico i can think of who rose to the highest office was lal bahadur shastri. probably a discussion as to how this guy rose to the highest office inspite of being honest may provide some answers.

    Comment by reetesh — March 15, 2006 @ 12:34 pm

  11. I am very surprised by reetesh’s comment.
    I don’t see the relation between violence and sensibility of the masses.
    It is a very simple line of thought.
    The votes are cast by people who are not concerned about politics.
    The people most easily swayed and influenced are these very people.

    I don’t see any reason why a politician would waste his energy on someone who will be hard to please.
    It is the sum of aware, educated and responsible citizens, the media which will have to cause the revolution. A bloodless one.

    Comment by Keya Rai — June 12, 2006 @ 4:14 pm

  12. Why India can not have politicians like Portia Simpson Miller aka Sister P?

    Comment by Fan — June 21, 2006 @ 9:27 am

  13. I have seen blogs of u all guys….As wat i am feeling a fire of change has been lit up. So called “poor”(in reforming and vision) politians won’t be there in future.Many intellectual guys are going in politics; now it depends us that we have to make this fire alive and more powerful.

    Comment by jeetendra kumar — June 21, 2006 @ 4:19 pm

  14. let’s stop giving comments and start working in making indian politics better . don’t waste time on comments JUST DO IT!!

    Comment by himanshu — August 29, 2006 @ 3:54 pm

  15. The Indian Politicians are indeed a reflection of voters themselves; as has been pointed out in another comment here.

    After all isn’t Lalu Prasad Yadav, Shahabuddin, Sadhu Yadav – elected to Parliament ?

    Comment by Apun Ka Desh — September 15, 2006 @ 4:54 pm

  16. Generally a country gets the leaders that it thinks it wants not what it really needs.

    Maybe with the size of the democracy the poor leaders are really only a normal amount of slobs with normal amounts of graft and corruption?

    Comment by Randall Wall — December 27, 2006 @ 11:55 pm

  17. i feel our politicans are not poor in any way be it financial or intulect but its just sheer hunger for money and power which doesnt end ….the basic ideology for being in public life has gone for a toss…

    Comment by known stranger — February 27, 2007 @ 12:43 pm

  18. great site, information will come in handy for a school project I am doing, thanks again

    Comment by denae — June 7, 2007 @ 10:28 am

  19. I am very optimistic about the future of indian politics.After our markets got opened up in 90s, we are witnessing lot of people getting out of poverty.As the standard of living increases, people would try to take more charge of their lives.That will eventually create a silent revolution in the way people think about politics and politicians.I don’t think our current politicians can withstand that revolution.Then, we will see a take over of politics by the people who know what they are doing.

    All we have to do is spread the awareness about the free market system and what it did to the west in improving the standard of living of millions in shorter period of time.

    Comment by Jay — June 8, 2007 @ 8:39 pm

  20. [...] posts in this series: 1, 2 and [...]

    Pingback by The Indian Economy Blog » Why Does India Have Such Terrible Politicans - 4 — January 30, 2008 @ 9:28 am

  21. [...] time these questions have been posed, or first time they are being expressed. Here are some links: [1] and [...]

    Pingback by What role did we play in the Mumbai terror attack (guest post) « A wide angle view of India — December 2, 2008 @ 6:14 pm

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