Standard Operating Procedure: An 18-Step Success Guide for Politicians

Standard Operating Procedures used in service industries like technology and healthcare bring in standardization, process orientation and overall efficiency, and are increasingly bringing the same benefits to politics.
  1. Politician comes to position of power and sets in place a proper system to implement corrupt practices. Initially he makes sure everyone in the chain is satisfied and gets his due, so the system runs smoothly.
  2. After a while, he gets a bit insecure and realizes that he has limited time to ensure his life time needs are met. So he gets a bit greedy, and in the process misses to give someone their due.
  3. If the politician is highly experienced, go back to Step 1 and keep continuing the iterations. He is then on his way to political superstardom. Else Go to Step 4.
  4. Somehow word gets out, and a press article appears on how the politician is corrupt and has used his position of power for personal gains.
  5. Politician reacts and says that he is being victimized by the opposition. Politician and his party continue to say that character assassination is politically motivated
  6. Opposition says that they need an independent inquiry into the issue.
  7. In case he is truly a big fish or on the way to become one, go back to Step 5. The arguments continue and eventually die out. Most ambitious politicians should aspire to stay in this loop for most of their lives. In majority of the cases, there is an agreement between the party in power and the opposition and the issue is settled. Only if things get serious or out of hand, Go to Step 8.
  8. Forced by something which could be anything from not getting a share of the corruption money to taking advantage of the public mood, an inquiry has to be set up in excruciating circumstances – headed, in most cases, by a former, retired judge.
  9. The opposition rejects the formation of the inquiry commission saying that the character of the person who heads it as well as the members is not spotless, and hence this is an eyewash.
  10. Then after some time which could be a few months to many years, the inquiry gets done and a report is submitted, which finds some elements of wrong doing but no conclusive evidence. At this point, things generally close on the topic, or there is a demand for another investigation, in which case go back to Step 8 and repeat. Only if there is some serious suspicion, go to Step 11.
  11. The original politician’s party, senses that it is time to distance themselves from the politician – and so says that the legal process will take its due course and they believe that our judicial system will mete out punishment to the offenders in case of any wrong doing.
  12. As part of this process, someone from the opposition co-incidentally gets caught in an act of corruption. The opposition claims this is political vendetta. Go to step 11 and repeat for a few months and then go to step 13.
  13. Finally the court hearing the inquiry commission asks them why they did such a shoddy job, and why a case was not registered, and then, due to this kind of embarrassment at the hands of the judiciary, some proof is quickly gathered, and perhaps a case is registered.
  14. Hearings go on from lower court to upper court, Go back to step 13 for a few months, and then something happens and it looks like the politician may be cornered. Now go to step 15.
  15. A bail application is then made by the politician’s lawyers, and it is mostly rejected.
  16. The politician then falls ill and seeks bail on medical grounds – which is granted. Go back to step 13 through 16 and the process repeats. Finally in the rarest of the rare cases, in case he truly has no political utility for anyone, he has to resign.
  17. If it is really bad with seriously bad media coverage, he may lose the election next time. If it is not that bad, and some damage control has been done, he may win or someone else from his party will win in his place.
  18. A new politician comes to a position of power. Go to step 1 and repeat.

बैठ जाइये: Takeaways from Parliament’s Lokpal Debate

‘All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone’ – said Blaise Pascal.

On those lines, there might be some truth in extending it a bit – ‘All of a nation’s problems perhaps stem from their parliamentarians’ inability to sit quietly and agree in a room together.’ If only more of our parliamentarians could agree on solutions to more of our nation’s problems more frequently, a lot of our problems would perhaps be non-existent, or definitely solved faster.

At the very least, the problem that our speaker faces daily of having to repeatedly keep saying “बैठ जाइये” so often would definitely go away. Pity the speaker of the house trying to control the proceedings of the house – specially on days like Friday of last week, which is, perhaps, more like a normal working day for Parliament. It was evident that whenever someone would stand up to ‘make a respectful submission’ or a ‘humble point’, all it would result in would be noise from some section of the house, followed by a different version of “बैठ जाइये” from the speaker. Honestly, how many different ways can you say “बैठ जाइये” after all? It seems that there is an inverse relation between the number of “बैठ जाइये” pleas made by the speaker and the quality of output from the house. One could see that on Friday, after all the constant “बैठ जाइये” pleas, finally the house was adjourned, and on Saturday, with only a few intermittent “बैठ जाइये” pleas, the house achieved some meaningful debate and reasonable output. How I wish we had more such occasions where parliamentarians could sit in peace and agree more!

For the past two weeks, common citizens – led by an uncommon man – have found it much easier to follow “बैठ जाइये” instructions. They have all been ‘sitting in peace’, in protest silently, non-violently – all agreeing on the common need to root out corruption at all levels in the country. Somehow, they have also presented a solution to the problem in the form of a bill, that some agreed on, some did not, but everyone felt was on the right lines at least. And if a whole country, well almost, but a significant part of it could do so, it was high time that a set of 540-odd elected representatives could find a way of sitting quietly and agreeing in a room.

Well – it looks like they did achieve a way of doing that on Saturday. But the people outside are still not convinced that this is real. “यह तो कमाल कर दिया” – said my broker friend Jigneshbhai, also a supporter of the India against Corruption movement, just returning yesterday from one of the rallies. May be it was a one-time miracle, may be it was not. Perhaps the ones outside the house will agree, sit and protest again, maybe when they realise that the ones inside are not able to sit and agree again.

And then, unfortunately, the problems for the speaker are sure to start again. She will have to find new ways of saying “बैठ जाइये”. I have a suggestion. May be she should change it, and say “बैठ जाइये नहीं तो अन्ना हजारे को बोलूंगी”! Who knows – maybe that will work and we will have miracles like Saturday again!

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