Kevin Rudd, who recently resigned as Australian foreign minister is a political paradox and an enigma.
He resigned following a Labour Party caucus ballot, reinforcing Prime Minister Julia Gillard as the undisputed leader of the Party.
His differences with Ms Gillard began two years ago when the latter ousted him from the post of Prime Minister in a coup. However, she appointed him foreign minister not only to appease him but also to foster the country’s foreign policy.
Mr Rudd became unpopular because of his working style.
He is one of the smartest thinkers in politics, a view endorsed by former US President Bill Clinton.
Nicknamed ‘24/7’ for his non-stop working style, Mr Rudd had his appeal among his ministerial and party colleagues but not for long.
Indian students issue
The way he handled the Indian students issue in 2009 left much to be desired.
There was a feeling in the Indian Community in Australia and the Indian government that he failed to assuage Indian students who were victims of racial abuse. He failed to connect with his audience, which was not lost by political observers around the world.
Contrast this to the motherly touch given by Ms Gillard, who cleverly got the US on board, with the stationing of the US Marines in Australia. She has also sold the ‘Climate Change Policy’ (which was the brainchild of Mr Rudd) to her constituents and sealed better relations with India after the Indian student fiasco. She may not be as bright as Mr Rudd but certainly more pragmatic.
It is important for politicians to be more connected with their constituents to score high in politics.
The analysis brings us to the fact that intellect is important for politicians, for it helps to understand policies in a better light.
However, empathy and tenacity help politicians in their survival.
Charismatic John Key
On comparison, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key is a charismatic leader, genuine in his approach to issues. We saw this quality during his visit to India in June 2011. He was at home with the Prime Minister, ministers, sports celebrities and Bollywood stars, as much as he was with ordinary people.
Mr Rudd got his priorities mixed up when he visited India as Prime Minister. He chose to attend a seminar rather than meet with his Indian counterpart and take up issues with ministers and officials.
He was considered a snob. He is a product of the old Labour, which fails to understand the changing scenario in the world. In other words, the new generation of the Labour Party in Australia wanted a face, which takes a radical view of the changing world including an effective climate change policy, removing trade barriers and sealing strategic relations with countries such as India and the US.
Mr Rudd ignored these aspects to his peril.