Heard of gardening leave? It’s the period when a professional earns her full pay but can do nothing more than stay at home and tend to the garden. That is, in a manner of speaking. The point is to keep her from working with a rival that could benefit from what she knows now. This is the cooling off period.
Gardening leave is a drain on the employer. It gets no return on the pay of the exiting employee but is extremely popular in the corporate world. By the time this leave ends, hopefully things will have moved on and what the exiting employee knows would be of no use to the rival who has hired her.
Some companies go to the extent of having a no-poaching arrangement with rivals, but these are generally verbal, lest the anti-competitive watchdogs perk up their ears.
It’s probably time political parties thought of a mechanism – they could give it any name they like, say Margdarshak Awkash – to keep their trade secrets from reaching rivals through a professional who is exiting.
Granted, politics in India, though a lucrative profession (do not be misled by the puny salaries of MPs and MLAs), is not really professional. Its entry barriers are either very high (if you do not have money, muscle, or lineage), or very low (if you have any of the three).
One man is out to change that. Prashant Kishor is poised to manage the Congress party’s campaign in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Gujarat. He first shot to fame by managing Narendra Modi’s bid to become Prime Minister in 2014. And – few thought this would be possible – went a step up by helping Nitish Kumar defeat the BJP in Bihar.
The success has placed him in the unique position of being able to choose who he works with. Reports say he insists on having direct access to the top boss. What he learns from one top boss must be coming in handy while working for another.
In that sense, he is more equal than any other professional. But he is also infusing politics with much-needed professionalism. At this rate, he could soon be paraphrasing George Bernard Shaw’s immortal line on soldiering in Arms and the Man to say: “I suppose politics has to be a trade like any other trade.”
If politics has to be like any other trade, the employers in it must be like any other employer, devising ways to prevent their trade secrets from leaking out to rivals, carried in the satchel of an employee leaving to join others.
And that brings us back to where we started. A bit of gardening, a bit of leave.