My Take

Leaders must connect with the people

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 January, 2014, 2:49am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 January, 2014, 2:49am

The dawn of a new year brings with it promises of better and happier times. It is natural to hope for this in your personal and professional lives. But you have to be a hardcore optimist if you hope such changes will come about in the political sphere of our societies.

From one of the world's oldest democracies in the United States to the Communist Party-ruled China and poverty-stricken sub-Saharan Africa, the story is the same. Leaders are getting more distant from the common people and getting trapped in the luxuries that power brings.

It is not just politicians; even those who claim to be more enlightened souls have been succumbing to this trend. The scandal surrounding a Thai Buddhist monk who was photographed travelling in a private jet, complete with a trendy pair of sunglasses, caused a furore in Thailand last year.

But with resentment against this kind of behaviour rising, many political leaderships are trying to reform. China has warned its officials against lavish banquets, the use of chartered planes and accepting gifts. The Communist Party warned such decadence will threaten its very existence.

Political corruption triggered massive protests in India last year and eventually saw the rise of the "Common Man's Party" which rode to power on the promise of clean and transparent government.

The leader of the party, Arvind Kejriwal, last weekend took the subway as he headed for his swearing-in ceremony as Delhi chief minister. He also decided to continue living in his old apartment, refusing to move into the posh official residence that he is entitled to now.

But his start in the new office did not go too well as he was brought down by Delhi belly on Monday. In keeping with his vow to bring transparency to the office, he tweeted to more than 900,000 of his Twitter followers: "Running 102 fever since yesterday. Severe loose motions. Sad that I won't be able to attend office today." Some people responded by offering him advice on how to overcome his illness while others joked about his penchant for "open government". But it is a different start, one has to admit. We can only hope he gets well soon and his future tweets will bring more breaths of fresh air.