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Aged 88, facing detractors, will Sreedharan's experience help his political experiment?

By NS Venkataraman* 
With the rapid development in the field of science and technology practices, information technology and management, administrative techniques all over the world, there is a need for a high level update in knowledge amongst politicians, including ministers, both in states and the Central government, who govern the country today.
However, thanks to limitations of democracy, often semi-literate politicians and even those with dishonest mental outlook and background with little experience in administration are posted top positions. Indeed, many ministers, parliamentarians and legislators of the ruling party are not at par with the required capability to meet the challenges ahead. It goes without saying that those in the opposition do not fare any better.
With most of the ministers in the Central and state governments having little grip and knowledge about the functions of the ministries they handle, they largely depend upon the advice and guidance of IAS officers, who are seen by many as jack of all trades but master of none. There is also the view that ministers and bureaucrats are the stumbling block in the progress of the nation due to their limited understanding of issues they handle, which often turn into costly mistakes.
In these circumstances, the view has gone strong that that there is a need to improve the standards and quality of ministers and IAS officers. However, no one is really sure as to how this can be done in the present democratic style of functioning, with elections throwing all and sundry as winners by getting majority votes.
Of course, this does not mean that other forms of governance like dictatorship, communist regime and feudal system are any better. The choice of a system of governance is essentially a compromise decision.
It is in this context that one has to see the decision of E Sreedharan, who has been known for efficiency in discharging functions, for which he was nicknamed “metro man”, to volunteer himself to enter politics. He has gone so far as to say that he is willing to take over as the chief minister of Kerala if the people so desire!
Sreedharan is not the first technocrat to take the decision to join politics. Through him, the effort is appears to be to try to give the impression that there is a need to inject administrative efficiency and technological capability into political leadership.
In recent times, a number of retired IAS and IPS officers, even former judges, have ventured into politics. But they have not made any difference in administration. No doubt, Sreedharan has enormous experience in setting up metros, even as working with politicians of different hues – despite enormous pressures, whether it was Delhi or Kochi.
Not without reason, those pushing him into politics believe that Sreedharan venturing into politics would help give the impression that with him at the top the administration in a democratic society would improve.
However, it still remains to be seen as to whether Sreedharan would succeed, let alone become chief minister of Kerala. After all, democracy is all about gaining majority in in an assembly or Parliament. He is 88. There would surely be political detractors who might try to tick him off as an “aged man”.
Of course, Sreedharan is trying to project himself of having an alert mind with reasonably good health. One has to see how he able to overcome his critics. One has also to see if the “metro man” would pose himself as a challenge and opportunity for the electorate in Kerala, and whether the claimed effort to combine experiment with experience would succeed.
In the past, the electorate in Kerala have exhibited high level of maturity and have repeatedly shown that they cannot be swayed by emotion and motivated campaign and can exercise their decisions with clarity and understanding of the basis ground realities. It has to be seen how the state reacts to Sreedharan after he has made his political views on Kerala society public. While Sreedharan is a big talk in the media, would he succeed in electoral politics?
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*Trustee, Nandini Voice for The Deprived, Chennai

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