Why Some People Don’t Run for Office, but Others Do?

Despite having all the necessary qualifications for leadership, certain people will never want to run for public office. Of course, not every good person is cut out for politics, nor is there room for everyone to serve at the highest level of decision-making bodies. But often their reluctance to run for public office has more to do with personal reasons. For example, the most commonly cited reasons, or sometimes excuses, are as follows: Loss of privacy, less time for family or favorite pastimes, less income than in many business or professional occupations, exposure to partisan and media criticism, fear of compromising one’s principles because of the complexity of our adversarial system, aversion to conflict and divisiveness, expense of campaigning, and involvement in many things most people would rather not do – such as attending all kinds of public meetings and always being expected to donate a certain amount. Also in the specific context of Nagaland, they may be afraid that some so-called national groups and our “do-as-you-like” Naga culture could make it nearly impossible for them to exercise any meaningful leadership to accomplish anything.  

Because good people shy away from politics, certain opportunistic individuals who shouldn’t represent the society try to take advantage of vulnerable situations for their selfish ambition, so they run for public office. Their only goal is to satisfy their ego needs by means of gaining power and position. For this sort of people, it’s all about more money and more power. And politics, they think, is the route to achieve it all. If they like travelling, for example, they would do so at the government’s expense and look to avail whatever privileges they can get for self-indulgence. But on the surface, they will always project themselves as real champions of the people and will make many promises to solve their problems.  

Then, there are those who do not even have the slightest concern about whoever their leaders may be. Worse still, they are willing to be followers of any leader, even if that leader has already proven himself to be a “rotten tomato” (useless) or a “blood-sucking leech” (corrupt). By their subservient following, they indirectly enable bad leaders to continue ruling. And, by their silence and indifference, they allow evil to destroy their society.  

Yet a society of subservient followers can never build a democratic nation. After all, a democratic nation requires educated, engaged, conscientious, caring, and even skeptical citizens. It also requires citizens who will recognize when changes are needed and have the courage to bring about necessary reforms and progress. Such citizens provide the leaders that enable constitutional democracy to survive and thrive. In other words, constitutional democracy requires citizens who are willing to run for office and serve with integrity. It is understandable that good people sometimes shy away from seeking office, with the ensuing loss of privacy and other burdens that come with public office. But no matter how brilliant our Constitution or how strong our religious beliefs, ultimately our system depends on individuals willing to compete for office.  

Perhaps you may not have the money power or the political connections to catapult you to an election victory the first time. But if you are a responsible citizen or a real patriot and have the thick-skin to take any heat and the heart to carry others’ burdens, you might be that “special someone” who should seriously consider seeking public office, or at least encourage those who possess those kind of qualities. You must, however, be certain that your candidates are known for their selfless service and the capability to lead according to people’s needs amidst changing times.  

So, then, why should good people run for public office? Here are some praise-worthy reasons:

* To solve problems and promote the needs of the people and further their dreams.

* To advance fresh ideas and approaches for development.

* To “throw some rascals out” who are of no use to the public

* To gain a voice in policy making and in directing the society towards the desired goal(s).

* To serve as a spokesperson for worthy causes, or to represent the needs of the underprivileged in the community.

* To acquire political influence and a platform from which to influence public opinion.

* To be “where the action is” – involved in the thick of government and political life – campaigning, debating, drafting laws, reconciling diverse views, and making the system responsive.

Today’s public leaders are being asked to function with fewer resources and continually find new ways to tackle challenges. So having the right leaders at the helm of affairs is an urgent public need. Indeed, leadership is critical to good public governance, including good planning, efficiency, transparency, and accountability. That’s why we should look for, and allow only, good people to run for public office.