Who's a Politician?
A politician is someone who is involved in the governance of a country. He or she is usually a member of a political party, which is a collection of people who hold similar views. Politicians can be chosen by popular vote, as is the case in democracies, or appointed by a leader. A country’s political system is a significant indicator of what it’s like to live there. Some means to influence politics include public protests, signing petitions, lobbying, and writing letters or attending meetings to express your opinions to the government.
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What will you do?
Representing the people.
As a politician, this is one of your most fundamental roles. You are elected by the citizens to represent them in the government.
Example: At a municipal level, you would represent people living within your jurisdiction and represent the people’s opinion in terms of trees being cut down, garbage disposal, etc.
Participating in policy-making.
You will work with civil servants, political scientists, economists, and many others to form basic guidelines or charters for running the nation. As a politician, you would understand the current set of problems, figure a long-term solution for them, create a policy and bring it to effect.
Example: You will participate in discussions about designing a new tax law for the country whilst keeping in mind the needs of the country and the working-class citizens.
Regardless of their background, the average human being needs help with understanding governance. You will have to help your people understand their rights and their duties as citizens.
Example: In a democracy like ours, where the philosophy of governance focuses on the distribution of power and authority, the majority usually wins. However, this also means that the wrong party could assume power. Therefore, it is important to provide the people with an unbiased awareness on political ideologies, forms of governments, status quo (current affairs), and political trends across the world. This is can be achieved through educational programmes, so they can make an informed decision when they vote.
Understanding the problems of the citizens.
Even before you start working towards the betterment of the people, you need to learn and understand the problems they face, You will have to communicate with them and identify the problems faced so as to resolve them.
Example: If the locals in your jurisdiction are facing water and electrical issues, then you will have to come up with solutions to ensure good flow of water and electricity.
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Where will you work?
Depending on your standing in politics, you will either have your own party and can set up your own office or work out of the office set up by your party leader.
If you are a Minister of Parliament and your party is in majority in the State, you will work for your state government office.
You will have to attend sessions held in the house to represent your people and your party.
How do you get there?
What skills would you need?
How do you make it to the top ranks?
As a politician, you will spend most of your time in an office. This can be a district-level office, rural-level office, the secretariat (Chief Minister’s office), collector’s office, admiral’s office, or the central-level office. You can start your career as a volunteer and carry out some basic administrative tasks for your party.
If you plan to start at the grassroots level, you will primarily work for the local government. Here, you will function at the basic level, working for Panchayats (governments in rural areas) and Municipalities (governments in urban areas). Your progress here could take you to the next level – working for the state government.
If you choose to move from the local and state governments to civil services, you can rise to the ranks of Secretary to the Government of India. Here, you can take up a role as an IAS, IFS, or IPS officer, acting as a principal advisor to the minister on matters related to policy and administration within the department.
By this stage, you are in charge of heading all civil services and act as a chief of the Indian Administrative Services. The junior members of the cabinet report to you while you report directly to the Prime Minister of India.
Member of Parliament
Another political route you can choose to pursue is the legislative branch of the government. You start as a member of the lower house i.e. the Lok Sabha and proceed to become a member of the upper house i.e. the Rajya Sabha. The President of India is at the head of this branch.
The highest level of authority lies within the executive branch, which administers state bureaucracy. The President is head of the state and has the right to all constitutional powers. Next, comes the Vice President, chairman of the Rajya Sabha. The Prime Minister comes third as chief of the government, chief advisor to the President, head of the council of ministers, and leader of the majority party in the Parliament.
Pursuing your career locally VS abroad
There is no set qualification or course to become a politician in India. But to have adequate knowledge and understanding of the political structure, you can choose to pursue a degree in Political Science or Politics and even earn a Master’s degree in the subject. An MA in Political Science costs between INR 10,000 – INR 70,000, while the fees for MA in Politics varies from INR 8,000 – INR 35,000 across various colleges and universities across the country. You can also choose to pursue law, journalism, economics, social work, or civil services, depending on the role you wish to play in the government. While in college, you can also join student bodies of political groups to gain practical knowledge of politics. Institutions such as Delhi University, Banaras Hindu University, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Aligarh Muslim University are well-known hubs for such bodies, whose members are later recruited by political parties. You can also join debate societies to improve your public speaking or participate in social work at the local level.
To pursue politics in India, it is best you study in India wherein you can learn about the country’s political structure and policies. You can, however, earn a political degree at a university abroad, which mainly serves as a bonus on your portfolio. Universities like Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge, Stanford, Princeton, Berkeley, Yale and London School of Economics and Political Science have top programmes in political science, where you can choose to study as an undergraduate and proceed to earn a Master’s Degree followed by a PhD. If you’re lucky enough to earn a scholarship, these are the best places to study as yearly fees for these institutions can rake up to INR 50,00,000
How much would you get paid?
Your pay would largely depend on your party's standing in the country. If you belong to the majority party, you will most likely have a higher pay compared to the other political leaders.
What are your career options?
Political science is the best option for a career in politics as it explains the framework of the government systems and policies. You can choose to pursue an undergraduate degree and follow it up with a Master’s degree in political science. You also have the option to later pursue a career in political journalism, civil services, or teaching. You can also directly work with political parties and apply their knowledge in framing policies that are beneficial to the public.
Civil Services is the most preferred career option for political aspirants as this field brings them closer to politicians and leaders. You will be responsible for the administration and smooth functioning of the government and gain insight on how administrative processes are carried out on a large scale. Some of India’s most famous politicians such as Arvind Kejriwal and Mani Shankar Aiyar are from this field.
Politicians must work for the benefit of the people and social work is the best way to immerse oneself in public service. By choosing this field, you gain a better insight into how the system works and what needs to be fixed in order to uplift the underprivileged members of society. You will work directly with such communities and help them get all the assistance they deserve from the government. By establishing a career in social work, you can also gain a voter base among the communities you help.
A number of important economists have gone ahead to have flourishing careers in politics, Dr Manmohan Singh and Subramanian Swamy being the most famous of them. One of the most important tasks of a political leader is to improve the economy of the region they govern, be it district-level or central. As an economics major, you can choose to join civil services or directly enter politics in order to use your understanding of numbers and policies to accordingly work ways to increase the GDP.
Politicians are also responsible for making laws. An understanding of the legal framework can help create policies around which governance should take place. You can choose an undergraduate LLB degree, followed by a Master’s LLM degree, and then work as an advocate or directly enter politics. As laws require to be constantly updated, you can provide more insight into what works for the nation. Some of the most important politicians in India, from freedom fighters like Jawaharlal Nehru and Mohandas Gandhi to leaders like Sushma Swaraj and Kapil Sibal, have all had backgrounds in law.
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