NEW DELHI – In 2009, when I competed in India’s last parliamentary election, I was something of a rarity. I was not a professional politician. By contrast, all of the other candidates in my constituency – indeed, most of the contenders across the country – had devoted their entire lives to politics, many since their student days.
I was not born into a political family; I had no seat or political fiefdom to inherit; and I had entered the race without a political “godfather.” I had not even lived in India for decades, having spent my adult life working abroad for the United Nations. Nonetheless, I managed to wrest a seat from the opposition Communist Party of India, which had won the two previous elections in my constituency, with a substantial margin of 100,000 votes.