Fat cats no longer?

More and more Indian politicians are going in for bariatric surgery. But would politicians do better to look like fat cats, or to seem lean and hungry?

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Another Indian political leader has decided to take firm action to firm himself up: Nitin Gadkari, the 130kg president of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, recently had bariatric surgery in an effort to lose weight.

The term covers different types of operations - "bariatric" is from the Greek for "weight treatment" - which reduce stomach capacity; and with it, appetite. These operations, intended for the obese, can have complications, but do lead to weight loss.

Indian publications report that the procedure is rapidly becoming more popular in that country, with an estimated 200 to 300 operations per month. And politicians have helped to make the surgery fashionable: bariatric patients in recent years have reportedly included several prominent BJP members as well as lawmakers from other parties.

This is not a good time to be a political fat cat in India; scandals have dominated the news for months. Leading anti-corruption campaigners such as Anna Hazare have preferred the hunger strike - the venerable old technique of protest (and weight loss) - to dramatise their cause.

It is not obvious to us that Indian voters would currently prefer their politicians to have a post-surgical "lean and hungry look" of a Gandhi or a Nehru. But they probably would like them to diminish their appetite for baksheesh and kickbacks.