March 18, 2014
My short vacation at my home town Mangalore, had also coincided with the campaign visit of India’s most popular and Prime Ministerial favourite candidate Narendra Modi. The city was lit up in exult and euphoria, and a day before Modi’s arrival, a teenager wearing Modi’s face mask walked straight into me and asked ‘Are You Modified’? It sounded funny, I had no answer, just muttered ‘No, I am Terrified!
Managing the affairs of the state isn’t easy, certainly not in a country as complex and diverse as India. A statesman requires tremendous mental energy and tactics to counter adversaries and political rivalries. Apart from mass management, he has to exhibit a penchant for the kind of leadership found in a military general or a medieval Indian emperor.
Most great statesmen have been inspirational and innovative thinkers. Leadership comes natural to them, Leaders are born not made. Some of the greatest statesmen have created revolutionary impacts during their reigns. Lets look at some of the men who being at the helm of affairs in their states, made historic moves that proved turning factor in their country’s endeavors.
Franklin Roosevelt was a statesman for crisis, he didn’t promise, he delivered. It was the time of great depression in 1933, while America went hungry, businessmen & stock traders committed suicide in the streets and unemployment spread in rampage. Roosevelt used facilitation of eminent British economists John Maynard Keynes to overcome massive unemployment and to restructure the economic debacle of the era as a whole. Free food was served to the workers and the profit was divided equally among all classes, funds were mobilized to counter future constraints. Within a few years as the American President, Roosevelt was able to restore his country’s economy and redeem its honor from the jaws of worst financial crisis ever.
Franklin Roosevelt & Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill was elected as the prime minister during thebreak of second world war. As German dictatorAdolf hitler’s evil ideology gained momentum with overnight invasion of several countries, his Nazi forces declared war with Britain.Churchill showed no signs of panic. And on one midnight, all of a sudden as the Nazis bombarded London city, Churchill refused to surrender, and pledged Britain to fight. With the help of his royal air force and his alliance with United States and the Soviet Union, Churchill lead Britain into a major triumph against the HitlersNazis forcing them to surrender and their prophet to commit suicide in shame.
Indian Leaders of the Past
Jawaharlal Nehru was an iconic and a charismatic political leader. Born into an aristocratic family, and educated in England, Nehru was more of an Englishman at heart but was a devout socialist. Nehru soon joined Gandhi’s freedom movement and was elected as the India’s first ever prime minister post-independence. In his early days as a freedom fighter with Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru spent years in Prison, where he penned down prolific works of history and his idea of a Secular Socialist India. Under Nehru India made major strides in education, agriculture and heavy industrial sector and influenced a strong foundation of Social institutions in the country.
His emphasis on education and research helped cropping up of Indian Institute of Technologies and Managements, in his own words described them as Temples of modern India, and have served as the premier institutes in producing iconic individuals in the country. Nehru’s charisma was able to conquer the country’s millions, as he successfully won mandate for a period of seventeen long years.
Lal Bahudur Shastri was the India’s second elected prime minister. A simple and down to earth individual Shastri sustained major infiltration in Kashmir from Pakistani militants in the year 1965, where eventually Pakistan surrendered. His brief period at the top saw developments in agriculture sector, popularly hailed as the ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisan’.
After the untimely and little mysterious death of Lal Bahudur Shastri( government confirmed heart attack) in 1967, Indira Gandhi the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru was sworn in as the third prime minister of the country. After few years of able governance, economic stability and the triumphant Bangladesh liberation war against Pakistan, Indira Gandhi’s government came under scanner. The veteran anti-corruption crusader and activist Jayprakash Narayan and Socialist Labour Union leader George Fernandes vociferously confronted Indira Gandhi’s government of fraud, Corruption, bribery, favouritism and electoral fraud. And as the media and the opposition also got stronger in its denouncement of her government, Indira Gandhi resorted to autocracy and immediately enforced Emergency, thereby suspending democracy.
Large scale demonstrations were organized throughout, many leaders, journalists, activists were put behind bars, tortured and even killed inside the cells. And finally her government was routed out in the 1977 general elections as the Janata Party swept the mandate.
Post Indira Gandhi, several leaders rose to power and departed, and none was able to keep up the tempo that Nehru, Shastri and Indira Gandhi had maintained. The charisma was lost and so did the people’s confidence. Politicians were seen with suspicion and people’s faith began to deplete.
How are Today's Leaders Shaping up?
Narendra Modi has become a popular figure in the political circles and has won mass following. His admirers worship him. The social media has been flooded with Narendra Modi’s promos and has been lauded by his admirers as NaMo and mocked by his detractors as Feku. Neverthless, the RSS and the BJP showed no second thoughts in appointing him as their Prime Ministrial candidate, amidst resentment from veteran BJP leader LK Advani.
Narendra Modi’s history is colored with shades of progressive and divisive politics. That largely symbolizes a man with a smart mind and an evil heart. He cleverly uses crowd psyche and amends his speeches accordingly. While on campaign, he insidiously uses secularism, nationalism and communalism all in one.
Modi isn’t a great orator, but frames his speeches with slap stick dialogues that easily pull crowds. Although his vote bank and crowds make up of both rural population and the urban middle class English speakers, Modi’s command over the English language looks skeptical. Some say his English is as bad as Sonia Gandhi’s Hindi! Nevertheless, His targets are soft, those that don’t bite back. A frequent target is the ruling Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi, her son Rahul, her son-in-law, her political dynasty and the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. He terms the Congress party as the epitome of corruption and often quotes his famous dialogue ‘Congress and Corruption are twin brothers that can never be separated'.
On the other hand, Modi has never been critical of the more notorious figure in the hell-world of corruption and crime, Sharad Pawar. In fact, some allege Sharad Pawar as the most corrupt man living on the planet! Sharad Pawar has the crowd, the corporate India and the mafia on his side, which makes matters difficult or rather impossible to nail him. And so far only Anna Hazare has effectively pointed a finger at this political monster.
Modi speaks a lot and hardly listens, his temper is fragile, and habitually frails when questions irk him. Modi’s fourteen years span as the chief minister of Gujarat is marked with mixed outlines of polarization and convergence, hate and reconciliation, prejudice and tolerance, xenophobia and moderation, destruction and reconstruction. Under Modi, Gujarat has built up dominance in infrastructure and governance, while its social development index and community integration is one of the lowest in the country.
Although Gujarat is no better than other well developed states in the country, with as or more or less the same living standard and lifestyle, its marketing and Modi's PR is executed with acute competence and spectacular hype. Although the corporate controlled media has been standing by his side and has been covertly promoting him as a brand, there are independent writers who maraud critical essays and columns about his views and deeds. But for Modi, no negative publicity is bad publicity.
Rahul Gandhi's name appears as the front runner for the Congress party’s prime ministerial candidacy. Being the son of Congress party supremo Sonia Gandhi, it has been a rather easy route for him in the political sphere. Rahul has been the object of ridicule and parody across the social media and the blogosphere. His verbal delivery, general knowledge and his leadership skills are pegged with giant question marks. His party has been plagued by accusations of massive corruption, misuse of funds, nepotism, bribery, crony capitalism etc. So far, Rahul Gandhi hasn’t been successful in erasing the black scars labelled all over his party.
Rahul Gandhi hasn’t spoken out on core issues, nor has connected to the young educated masses. He has sought only the ruler vote bank. In his speeches he repeatedly emphasizes on change, but ten years of his party’s ruling has brought about inflation, incompetence and economic debacle. Nobody is aware about his ideas, his foresight for the country. His disposition as a leader has met with serious limitations. He suspends hard work for leisure, and at times hasn’t understood the psyche of the neo urban middle class India that is more attuned in the four walled drawing room getting all its news feeds from Modern Electronic Gadgets.
Arvind Kejriwal’s rise from a government employee to a RTI activists and finally to become the chief minister of India’s capital has been dramatic and almost miraculous. It’s a success story of India’s functional and vibrant democracy. Kejriwal’s leadership skills, his never say die spirit, his courage to take on India’s big shots and his ultimate humility marks the beginning of a Statesman in making. Kejriwal listens and speaks accordingly. He doesn’t boast, nor does he use foul language to ridicule his opposition. He is clean, sincere and has no corporate or dynastical backing. His politics is based on bringing to task the corrupt, criminal and the communal. Kejriwal symbolizes every urban Indian middle class, who graduates, finds job for a living, marries and runs a family, but also a socially conscious individual.
An alumnus of IIT Kharagpur, Kejriwal spent few years in government service and later as a hardcore RTI activist. He was the leading member of the Anna Hazare anti-corruption crusade movement. After the Anna movement party members like Kiran Bedi and Baba Ramdev made alliance with opposition BJP, and Anna Hazare lost steam, Arvind Kejriwal decided to register his own political outfit the Aam Aadmi Party with his close mates and installed broom as the party’s emblem, and was able to sweep the mandate in Delhi, by driving out the glued chief minister Sheila Dixit out of her seat. His recent resignation as the Chief Minister of Delhi, raises hopes of his chances at the National Front.
This election unlike the previous ones, would be more dependent on the social media and the Internet world. A substantial amount of campaigning by all three main leaders is done on social media. But whether the young voters are going to transform their obsession to leaders from their drawing rooms to the ballet box, is to be seen. But mere promise of economic development by some politicians should not change one’s morals; humanity is the last and the final character that defines a modern civilized nation.
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