Politicians often tend to think that they are know-all people and do not need skill enhancement like other homo sapiens.
The first major attempt to impart some modern management skills to the political classes was initiated by late Rajiv Gandhi, when he literally packed off half a dozen screaming and cursing politicians to Administrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad in 1989. The scheme, of course, failed like many such good measures.
Yet another major initiative in this regard, this time to train MLAs, is about to take off shortly in Andhra Pradesh, thanks to the speaker of Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly, KR Suresh Reddy.
Reddy, who has been three term legislator and hosts a personal website containing all information about his constituency (from ration cards to the number of house site pattas distributed), has decided to take help of B-schools to empower the legislators.
As per the scheme one B-school final year grad will intern with a MLA for three to four months, traveling with him or traveling separately in the constituency, spending time with the constituents, understanding the problems and issues and helping the legislator in planning and prioritizing the development schemes in his constituency.
He is also expected to assess as to how government schemes are being implemented or non-implemented, what are the reasons for the tardy implementation, assess the key problem areas and suggest as how to tackle them?
And lastly, he would assist the legislator in transacting his/her legislative responsibilities such as raising various issues in the assembly and other fora by preparing notes, reports and other background material.
"If legislators are prepared sufficiently, then they would stick to the subject and discussions could be really fruitful and a lot of time of the house could be saved," Reddy said.
Since becoming speaker three years ago Reddy has embarked on empowering MLAs. Besides classes in legislative procedures and practices which cover such mundane issues such as how to put questions, he has provided each MLA with a laptop. Still later he put together a team of software engineers and specially developed a "Constituency Management Software", which was installed in all MLAS laptops so as to help them monitor developments in the constituency.
A successful businessman before he ventured into politics, Reddy decided that some kind of modern management skills were necessary if MLAs were to keep pace with the changing developments. But before giving the go ahead he elicited views of MLA and found that surprisingly most of them were willing (unlike the team of ministers Rajiv sent for training).
"Huge amounts are being spent for good governance so that the schemes for people really benefit them, but the MLA, who is the key person in all this is left out. Good governance cannot be achieved without involving the legislator," Reddy told HT.
Having enlisted the support of MLAs, he reached out to the top brass of the Indian School of Business and the Marri Chenna Reddy Institute for Human Resources Development, both based at Hyderabad. After several round of discussions the blueprint was thrashed out.
Besides ISB, one or two of the IIMs are likely to be involved in this first-of-its-kind initiative.
Before going full blast, the scheme will be tested as a pilot project in three constituencies, involving three geographical regions, Telangana, Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra in the state. The constituencies are Tenali (Andhra), Manthani (Telangana) and Atmakur (Rayalaseema).
The legislators of these constituencies represent the new face of Congress: young, educated in Ivy League colleges, computer savvy and suffer no hang ups about business.
"Once the pilot project is completed, the initiative will be extended to all the 294 constituencies. If the experiment is successful, it can be implemented not only at the national level but in the entire Commonwealth, which has similar situations," said Reddy, who is active in Commonwealth Speakers Forum.
"We always felt that training was being imparted only to officers, not to MLAs who play an equal important role in the development process. The initiative is a step towards introducing 'professionalism into politics'," said Tenali MLA Nadendla Manohar, a second generation politician.
"It will be a two-way process, while the MLAs benefit from the management skills gleaned from the B-school students, the internees will get to know the countryside first hand: the people and the problems, the various forces, class and caste combinations at work and broaden their vision to meet larger challenges later. They would also become aware of the legislative process," said another MLA.