Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Old leader, old ideas

One of the things that defines a leader is his or her ability to create and convey a vision.  First, the vision has to be pathbreaking and second, it has to be simple at the same time. Next comes an uncanny ability to articulate it. They keep their focus on those one or two key messages every single time. And when they talk about it, you know it is theirs, straight from the heart. 

Rahul Gandhi has been marketed to the minions as the "new leader" for a few elections now. He is the choice just around the corner for his cheerleaders in the party and the media and the invisible hand for many of the good things that happen in the government.

Depending on when you read articles of his likely ascendancy, there are paeans sung to the organizational change he is trying to bring into Congress. At other times we are offered shades of hope. Sincerity is highlighted at other times. He is supposed to be the glue that keeps many arms of the Congress together. He is really supposed to be the change we (and possibly he) are waiting for. 

His speeches though offer very little insight, beyond the bromide of "two Indias" and "I am your sipahi in Delhi" (whatever that means). His interactions have been rare and frankly, quite, unimpressive. 

But the definitive test of a new leader is their ideation and articulation. What are the fresh ideas a leader brings onto the table? Or talks about? Or promises? Or has delivered upon?

And then we see Rahul (and his sibling Priyanka) campaign in UP. What do they do? First they talk of creating divisions after divisions in the form of quotas. They attack the existing government without having anything to show at the centre where his party is heading a government for the better part of the last 10 years. He has no answers for the large scale corruption which is a feature of this government. They talk of doles and subsidies. Rahul visits Madrasas as part of his campaign instead of outlining to the electorate his vision for the country or state. Where is the leadership in this? His leadership team as part of the campaign makes vicious promises and all he has to offer for such faux pas (if they were indeed) is a weak, "personal view".

And his sibling, curls her hair, wears a sari ostensibly to look like her grandmother and a former Prime Minister of India - Indira Gandhi. And when the Congress mouths slogans of Garibi Hatao (Indiras famous slogan in the 70s), the media sings praises of her looks and the voters are expected to vote en masse to herald the return of Indira Gandhi.

One of the fundamental tenets of leadership is to “be yourself”, however raw, however naive. If you cant think for yourself, surely never imitate someone else. Thats a basic rule of leadership - except if you are in a communist country like North Korea where apparently the incumbent Kim Jong Un underwent plastic surgery to resemble Kim Jong Il.

And while you there proving to be a leader - do pause to remember that anybody who has risen to leadership has always risen to leadership unifying people for a cause. Think any leader, and you will find this to be true.

Mr. Rahul Gandhi, you are supposed to be a young, educated, politician. And apparently many people look up to you. And when they do look up, what do they see? No vision, no inspiration, but a singular mission to convert certain people to vote for you on the basis of vacuous promises. What, exactly is your stand on corruption? What exactly is your stand on governance?
Is that what leadership is all about? Pitting community against community? Pitting religion against religion? If so, the English were doing very well. Sure the others are doing that, but you are supposed to be our next big hope? Surely, you can do better?

And a final note, when Rajiv Gandhi became Prime Minister, nobody can argue that his mind was not in the right place. While he did make a few missteps, his vision for India was very clear. He wanted India to be technologically advanced. He employed technocrats (famously Sam Pitroda) to help put his vision into action. Things did not really pan out as he had planned, but atleast we knew he was trying from his heart.
And as it happens with dynastic politics, change is always a generation or a sibling away and it is a pretty easy way to market it to ignoramuses.

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