December 2010
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The Corporate Indifference to Politics justified ?

A lot of people think politics and the corporate world should go hand-in-hand for the existence of both parties. It is based on a well-established notion that business has social as well as economic responsibilities. As Amartya Sen rightly pointed out, the Indian corporate sector has enormously benefited from the country's contributions to its development, and so the industry should have a 'sense of obligation' to pay it back.

Looking back at the history, Mahatma Gandhi collected money from the common men for starting the first textile mill in India by Tata and thus they started Nagpur's Empress Mill. Nehru was instrumental in building many of India's government owned industrial undertakings and paved way for private businesses to open up. It is on this cornerstone, the big, rich and powerful business house is built up.

Corporate participation in politics should not be just pumping in money during the elections to the political parties. In fact, the influence of the industry leaders on politicians and political outcomes can weaken the rules that protect the shareholders. The free flow of corporate money into politics can impact the preference and ideologies of politicians and political parties to which the common man has profound respect.

We still have to go a long way to taste the sweetness of prosperity, 'the overall prosperity.' Country's booming economy should not outweigh the true facts about India. India still has the highest number of child laborers in the world, close to 17 million. India now has 100 million more people living below the poverty line than in 2004. These facts pose a tough question - are we really improving?

It is here the demand for the corporate world to step into the political spectrum of the country. The professionals with their virtues of pride, self esteem and headship can drive away the dirtiness in politics. We need politicians who can broaden the scope of politics by their professional experience. "What we need are professionals, intellectuals and thinkers who had other kinds of work experiences than politics to bring their different mindsets into the political process," said Shashi Tharoor in an interview to IANS.

Speaking during a congregations of Indian CEOs, M. Damodaran, Chief Representative & Advisor, ING Group said, "Complete alienation of corporate India from the political system has been unfavourable to either parties and going forward corporate India should substantially augment its role in the Indian political system. Corporate leaders need not necessarily be in the parliament to effect changes in society, but it should do some soul search and become conscious of its accountability towards the nation."

There is already a paradigm shift in the mindset of a good number of Indian professions. The 2009 elections saw Professionals Party of India, a political party formed by a group of professionals, contesting elections. Although we have many educated professions like Kapil Sibal, Jairam Ramesh, Arun Jaitley, Arun Shourie and businessmen like Rajiv Shukla, Sharad Pawar, Amar Singh and Jyotiraditya Scindia to name a few, there is a general feeling that it is not adequate enough. Its not a question of winning or losing, but the willingness to participate. We also saw many during the last elections like Shashi Tharoor, Meera Sanyal and Mallika Sarabhai coming up to take part in the elections.

It is high time that our industrialists and corporate leaders recognize the need of their service in politics and nation building. The qualities which make them successful such as leadership vision, magnanimity, integrity and fairness should be incorporated into politics so that we can have a better tomorrow. The corporate world should acknowledge its obligation towards the country and accept that fact that India has a long way to go to be called a developed world and their service will accelerate the growth pace.

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