Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Are Modi and Rahul Qualified for the Jobs They Aspire For?

In paper, they are the world’s largest and second-largest democracies - India and USA. But any more comparison regarding the quality of their democracies and the quality of their aspiring leaders will fail miserably.

President Obama is now under intense fire in US. Polls show that his popularity is dwindling even amidst core supporters like the young and women.

But it is not for failing on any of his promises that got him a second-term, but for problematic execution of one of his biggest promises. But thinking about it, how can the implementation of something as revolutionary as ‘Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’ (PPACA) be anything less than problematic?

More commonly known as Obamacare, the ambitious healthcare overhaul is so comprehensive and complex in its approach. Obamacare is not just about ambition but about the capabilities of a uniquely educated and variedly experienced leader to visualize it, and get it planned in its nitty-gritty by an elite-team of diverse professionals. Needless to say, Obamacare was in Obama’s mind long before he decided to run for the highest office.

It has been a long-haul for Obamacare from bitter battles in Congress and Senate in 2009, agreement on the amendments, and even after Obama signed it into law in 2010, the going has been tough on the execution side due to many unavoidable pains. But since it has been a well-designed, well-thought of reform, whose time had come, it has survived. The science and economics of it can’t be faulted. It is what democracies should really be attempting in this modern age.

Even while battling his most serious popularity crisis ever, due to Obamacare’s execution, Obama’s resolve on the issue is contagious. “I continue to believe and I am absolutely convinced that at the end of the day, people are going to look back at the work we’ve done to make sure that in this country, you don’t go bankrupt when you get sick, that families have that security,” said Obama a couple of days back.

But the largest democracy of this globe - India - and its aspiring leaders have no such visionary blueprints for revolutionary reforms in any core sector. What dominates Indian political discourse is silly blame-games and a lot of hyperbole on one’s own capabilities.

What has been the biggest rush in India? Was it for the premiere of Ram-Leela? Nope. Was it for a high CAT score? No. Was it for grabbing land or competitor’s market-share? No, not even that. The biggest rush historically has been the rush to serve.

Serve others. What a noble thought. Narendra Modi wants to do that. Rahul Gandhi wants to do that. Mulayam Singh Yadav wants to do that. In back-to-back election rallies, these leaders are bellowing - “I want to serve. Let me serve. Only I can serve.” There are many more such leaders in secret out there, but who are still to take their audacity to that lofty level.

By that very thought - I should serve - these would- be-leaders, sorry, would-be-servants assume two things. One is that those whom they aspire to serve - including other aspiring servants - are way inferior to them in capabilities. The second is that they are fully qualified for the job.

The first was true with leaders like Gandhi and Nehru. Because, they became leaders by galvanizing millions of despairing people against the world’s largest empire of their times, and that too, adhering to an impossible strategy as non-violence. They went into the jail - often for months and years - before their followers went, and they often endured more than their followers.

In short, they became leaders through superhuman achievements for the masses they aspired to serve. And not ironically through either the much-vaunted democratic process, or polarizing fascism.

Congress had a glorious 30-year old history even before Gandhi landed from South Africa in 1915. The movement had stalwarts like Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Gopal Krishna Gokhale, both of whom even Gandhi looked upon as mentors.

But then Gandhi would start to grow in popularity, not through his words, but through his deeds that moved millions. Gandhi’s leadership stature was such that he would leave Congress at will, based on serious issues, and come back stronger years later when the rest of them came to accept his position.

Gandhi was greater than Congress. When his nominee was squarely beaten by Subhas Chandra Bose to win a second-term as Congress President, he just kept quiet. But Bose would soon enough prove to Congress that his policies were not at all compatible with ahimsa, resulting in mass resignations of all top leaders of Congress.

Congress was where Gandhi was, and not vice versa.

Gandhi’s ability to make inroads into any community’s mindset was also legendary. But it was again not through words but deeds. He spearheaded the Khilafat Movement in India, coupled it with the Indian freedom struggle, and thus not only became loved by Muslims across the country, but brought the Muslim community into the forefront of the freedom struggle.

Despite not being a Dalit himself, he would take on the formidable Dalit leader Dr. BR Ambedkar on how to go about empowering Dalits. Independent historians would vouch that Gandhi was as effective a leader of Dalits as Ambedkar, and more popular among the majority of Dalits across India. His role in inspiring fellow Hindus to stop regarding Dalits as untouchables, is second to none.

Gandhi was also noted for his ability to include different thought-movements like capitalism, socialism, communism, radicalism etc inside the Congress as far as possible, and even in building difficult consensus with other political parties of seemingly different ideologies.

Gandhi built bridges between Hindus and Muslims, Dalits and Upper Castes, Socialists and Capitalists, Moderates and Radicals, like no other leader has ever done before.

So, even if Gandhi had claimed that he was superior in capabilities to those whom he yearned to serve, not even his ideological enemies would have objected. Such was the man’s sheer capability to bring together diverse communities, hold them together to attempt the impossible, and succeed against all odds.

It is another matter that Gandhi never claimed any personal superiority over anyone.

But see the level of contrast with the current rush to serve. Who appointed them as Prime Ministers in waiting? Have they led any mass movement for any social cause apart from election rallies? Have they ironed out differences between communities? Have they built bridges?

The second assumption of these would-be-leaders, sorry again, would-be-servants, is even more preposterous. It is that they are fully qualified for the job.

It is a fact that any Indian above 25 can become an MP and even the Prime Minister. No qualifications are asked for. But isn’t it high-time that this constitutional provision is recognized for being outdated?

If State Bank of India can’t be entrusted to just anyone above 25, if LIC of India can’t be entrusted to just anyone without any qualification, if TCS can’t be entrusted with just any CEO, what on earth makes us believe that Government of India - which is much larger than all these entities combined - can be entrusted to just anyone above 25 years old regardless of his qualification and experience?

It is an issue of governing 127 crore people and meeting at least their basic aspirations, which in itself is diverse. It is even foolish to assume that one man can do all that. If somebody is claiming so, it is nothing other than foolish bravado. The task calls for the collective efforts of the finest leaders among us.

Today, the situation is such that thousands of fine leaders in the government, corporate, and public sectors are being governed by politicians who neither have enabling qualifications nor experience. Such bureaucrats, managers, economists, engineers, lawyers, doctors etc if brought together can solve every one of this nation’s problems, unlike half-baked politicians who are fumbling in the dark and accusing each other.

But the best of the world is not fumbling like us. Just take a look at Obama’s Cabinet:

John Kerry (Yale) , Jack Lew (Harvard), Eric Holder (Columbia), Sally Jewell (University of Washington), Tom Vilsack (Albany Law School), Penny Pritzker (Stanford), Thomas Perez (Harvard), Chuck Hagel (University of Nebraska), Kathleen Sebelius (University of Kansas), Shaun Donovan (Harvard), Anthony Foxx (University of New York), Ernest Moniz (Stanford), Arne Duncan (Harvard), Eric Shinseki (Duke University), and Rand Beers (University of Michigan).

Almost none are without a postgraduate degree from a reputed University, and most of them have career graphs that is much more than the graph of a yesteryears’ American career politician. This is despite this team being one of the youngest ever teams to govern America. Obama himself did his higher education at Columbia and Harvard, was an outstanding graduate, and worked impressively in community, law, & business careers before getting interested in mainstream politics. In short, members of Team Obama are all politicians but also respected professionals in diverse fields including science, healthcare, education, law, military, and business. With merit to back. Accomplishments to claim. Still, facing tough - often non partisan - battles in Senate and Congress for getting approved.

Times have changed. Nations have changed. The challenges of today are not the challenges of the Churchill/Roosevelt/Gandhi/Nehru era. What we need is professional management, accountable management of this nation.

In fact, either Congress or BJP can win the upcoming elections in a landslide fashion if they start a campaign about creating a professional Cabinet for the first time, handpicking stalwarts solely on merit.

But with too many unqualified and inexperienced leaders too eager to serve, that will take some more time in this nation.

1 comment:

  1. When corruption is encouraged by politicians themselves how india can go up



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