Indian politicians attend finishing school to help boost their voter appeal.
AT the prompting of Pria Warrick, her class of aspiring politicians open their arms wide and press their palms together over their heads – milking the cheers of an imaginary crowd of supporters.
“This gesture conveys you want to embrace the masses as one of your own,” explained Warrick, who runs the Pria Warrick Finishing School in India’s capital New Delhi.
Originally targeted at newlyweds and the wives of businessmen who are eager to improve their social and hostessing skills, the school has recently become a popular resource for politicians wanting to beef up their voter appeal.
“We’ve been having a lot of people from various political parties coming here,” said Warrick.
“They don’t know how much difference a receptive body language can make. But they are keen to change.”
According to Warrick, very few Indian politicians employ image consultants and most rely on advice from civil servants who are “very intelligent but have no idea about professional etiquette”.
In their class, the students role play to explore how they might behave in different situations on the campaign trail, whether visiting an influential supporter or an impoverished farmer.
“Some of them feel they lack the spontaneity to answer questions,” said Warrick, who learned her trade at a classic Swiss finishing school before setting up shop in India.
“We teach them how to evade an uncomfortable question, how to be firm in their replies and yet appear friendly.”
Yawning, burping and scratching the nose are three strict nonos in Warrick’s guide book for the political class.
“You must be ultra-careful because any action will be seen as reflecting your actual thought process,” she said.
Warrick is protective of her political students, refusing to divulge any of their names and not allowing them to be questioned directly.
A series of state elections has swollen intake for the specialist classes, but the main business of the school remains firmly based in its original almost exclusively female, clientele looking to polish their social skills.
Rapid economic expansion, an increasingly upwardly-mobile middle class and the growing number of Indians taking up overseas posts with large multinational firms, have all fuelled a demand for Warrick’s expertise.