Politics, for as long as I can remember, has been practised by most politicians (at least outwardly so) to give the impression that the 'politician' (not too many who pursue politics favour that stamp) was striving for the wellbeing of the electorate. The trouble started when non-politicians discovered that attaining state power was a great idea, particularly as an icing to their social and business pursuits.
Yes, of course, aspirants of political posts and quirks invest time on party and people, visit the dead and those ill, are visible after any major calamity and during all national celebrations, but they earn maximum points by showering rhetoric on a deified mortal, even it be at mahalla or union level. Non-political entities realised that they too knew people, some dead, several rich, a few influential, and they were already helping out after situations following the likes of Sidr and Aila, Rana Plaza and Nasirnagar. All they had to add to their regular chores was some homework to freshen up some important dates, people and events, and the reason for their importance.
Come any election, a procession of donation-seekers beeline at the door of business persons. After being elected with such handouts, not always settled in an amicable milieu, the elected representative often exerts undue interference in the affairs of the donors. This being the recurring situation, the flashing light bulb said, “Botsyo, if you are going to dish out the dough for others to gainpower and become influential, why do you not spend it on yourself, and shut the door on others for good?” Done, and so now we have a wealthy entrepreneur, without an iota of experience in public office, aspiring to become a member of a Zilla Parishad, or a municipality or to attain a seat in parliament, and often to aim as high as converting to a minister overnight.
A business tycoon in trouble with the police, the bank or the taxman, or being disturbed by controlling government agencies, also finds it convenient to attain political power to keep all at bay and enjoy a swim in the calm water alongside law enforcers, bankers, and others of authority.
The neo-politician (they are almost shy to admit their new career) also noticed that the successful politician spews out vitriols against the chosen demigod's opponent and his fourteen generations, past and present, by which action he doubles his chances of making up the slippery, and yet often itchy political ladder. The power, as you see, despite the maxim (“people are the source of power”) still lie largely with persons perched on the top rung or near about at every level of governance. A good leader of course sees through all that pomposity and often enough does not buy such blatant and liberal greasing.
Additionally, if the aspirant is gifted with oratory prowess, which often enough includes the ability to shut others up, or the gift of the gab, he draws the attention and blessings of the leader at local and national level, and thereby the nod of other beneficiaries around him.
While being a yes-man to the right man is one sure way of climbing to political-dom, the paths to power are otherwise several and varied, all of which must be traversed albeit in differing degrees. One could begin on the boundary wall (always someone else's) by writing one's own praise; that too is too easy for the vainglorious political hopeful, such as “Holy as a flower, Minu Miah's calibre”.
The next stage would be coloured posters and banners, glorifying half a dozen others with minuscule photos but with a blown-up gleeful portrait of the position-seeker. One or two speeches, special guest at the primary school prize-giving, chief guest at the sports! Before you know it, the guy's civilian skin has peeled off and he has transformed into a neta, which will be marked by a sudden change in attitude.
The rest is set to auto. The beloved novice, spurred by slogans that on analyses mean nothing, may need a makeover artist. Admittedly not all of us are blessed with the looks of a matinee idol or the stage appeal of a pop star. But, politics has come to a point where looks matter and showmanship matters. In some cases, nothing else does.
Part of the deal is to build a band of followers, paid or paid (there is no other way), barefoot or on motorbikes; cars are useless because the pran priyo 'people' cannot see who are inside (or how many) because of the dark windows, which is on and off the contraband list, depending on the muscle power riding alongside on honking motorcycles.
Yet another path to eminence is by systematically getting closer to a big gun, via his close small guns, such as a brother, sister, husband or wife, or a son of a gun. Be sure to have a licensed gun (a license will also do) because it is the first sign of distinctiveness that distances you from the public.
In this game, if the non-politician does not succeed, it can mean any or all of three things: (a) he was tight-fisted, (b) he chose the wrong contacts of a godfather (a wrong godfather would be disastrous), or (c) his makeup artist did a bad job. My tips: be generous, go with a proven godfather, and change your wardrobe.
The writer is a practising Architect at BashaBari Ltd., a Commonwealth Scholar and a Fellow, a Baden-Powell Fellow Scout Leader, and a Major Donor Rotarian.