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Are politicians entitled to any time off?

Are they allowed to go on vacation, attend to family matters, recharge their batteries or just chill?

brunch Updated: Jul 01, 2017 22:29 IST
Seema Goswami
All of us need to get away from our quotidian lives so that we can come back re-energised, recharged and rejuvenated
All of us need to get away from our quotidian lives so that we can come back re-energised, recharged and rejuvenated(Getty images)

Poor old Rahul Gandhi. The chap simply can’t catch a break. Actually, scratch that. The man does take breaks. And entirely too many, judged by the sanctimonious chorus of protest that always breaks out whenever he heads abroad for some time off.

Initially, it was the secrecy and the lack of information that people (well, mostly hyperventilating media people) objected to. Why couldn’t he just tell us where he was going, for how long and what he intended to do while he was there? What did the man think? That he was entitled to privacy when it came to his private life? Honestly, was there no limit to his sense of entitlement? (No, don’t answer that. The questions are purely hypothetical.)

Well – perhaps as a reaction to all that criticism – the Gandhi scion has become more forthcoming about his travel plans. He now tells us why he is travelling though there is still no information about his exact destination (apparently the secrecy is a precautionary measure because he forgoes SPG security when he is abroad). Now he is off to escort his mother back after her medical check-up abroad. Now he is heading out to spend time with his 93-year-old grandmother. Now it’s time for a little light meditation and a spot of Vipassana.

You would think that the timely disclosures would help. And you would be quite wrong.

Even when Rahul tells us in advance when he is heading abroad and why, he gets little joy from his critics. Doesn’t he know that the Assembly/Municipal elections are on? Doesn’t he realise that there is a farmer’s agitation raging in Madhya Pradesh? And so on and so outraged.

Which brings me to my question of the week. Are politicians entitled to any time off? Can they take holidays like the rest of us to attend to family matters, recharge their batteries or just chill? Do they have the right to a vacation without having the wrath of a self-righteous public descend on them?

Well, if you were to ask me, the answer to all of the above questions would be a resounding yes. But going by the outcry every time Rahul goes on vacation, I am clearly in a minority.

Rahul Gandhi gets flak from critics every time he goes on vacation, while Narendra Modi has taken not a single day off ever since he became PM three years ago. US President Donald Trump, who criticised Obama for spending too much time on the golf course when he was in office, is now ridiculed for playing too much golf himself

Not that it’s Rahul alone who gets flak for indulging in too much downtime. Donald Trump famously attacked Barack Obama for spending too many days on the golf course when he was president. It is another matter that, in a delicious irony of fate, President Trump is now being ridiculed for playing too much golf (though on the bright side he can do relatively less damage when he is on the golf course as opposed to when he is hard at work at the Oval Office).

Over in the UK, David Cameron was routinely accused of ‘chillaxing’ when he headed for his summer/autumn/winter break when he was prime minister. What on earth was he doing on a beach in Cornwall/Ibiza/insert destination of choice when the world was going to hell in a hand basket? The poor chap even tried to deflect criticism by a) holidaying in the United Kingdom and b) flying budget airlines like Ryanair. But it was a lost cause. “Cameron away on vacation while the world burns” (I exaggerate, but only a little) remained a perennial headline that could be reliably pulled out and recycled every holiday season.

Clearly, no matter where in the world you are, nobody likes the sight of politicians heading out on a vacation. Where do they get off just taking off when the world is in the state it’s in? There is a terrorism alert on; elections are coming up; the economy is in a mess; and here are our leaders just packing their bags and skipping off into the sunset with nary a care in the world. It beggars belief, doesn’t it?

Those who maintain that politicians should forget about holidays and buckle down to work 24/7 all 365 days of the year often hold Narendra Modi up as an example. Ever since he became Prime Minister three years ago, Modi doesn’t seem to have taken a single day off. Even his jaunts abroad are work trips rather than vacations, with the PM keeping up a punishing schedule that would put much younger men to shame.

But while we can all take pride in the fact that our Prime Minister is a superman, who thrives on a 18-hour-day and doesn’t need a holiday to recharge his batteries, perhaps we can also accept that that is not necessarily true of lesser mortals. While the supermen of the world can go on and on and on (much like the Duracell bunny) the rest of us tend to flag at some point or another. That’s when the cares of the world get too much to bear, when our everyday routine gets us down, and when we need a change of pace, of space and of routine.

There comes a time when all of us need to get away from our quotidian lives so that we can come back re-energised, recharged and rejuvenated. We all need to step off the treadmill occasionally to catch our breath so that we are fresh and raring to go when we clamber right back on. We all need to take that break, to go off on vacation when it all gets a bit too much.

So, why do we assume that politicians are any different? And why don’t we cut them some slack when the holiday season comes rolling by once again?

From HT Brunch, July 2, 2017

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