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The Ten Messages from the Victory of AAP in Delhi

Delhi Election Result: Dream Victory for Arvind Kejriwal's AAP, BJP Flattened

Arvind means ‘Lotus’ (Kamal) in Hindi. But, the BJP which proudly flashes lotus as its symbol, couldn’t imagine in its worst dreams that one day another ‘lotus’, called Kejriwal – long ridiculed and written off – would totter on the way of its proud victory march and blow away its whole rank and file like a hidden landmine. A new ‘lotus’ is born in Delhi through a historic mandate that would probably never be beaten in times to come. The victory of Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party is stunning, spectacular and full of messages.

The first message is that no one is a spent force in Indian politics. The only thing that matters is the capacity to hang on and to keep slogging one’s way through all adversities. The one who has vision and perseverance to implement his vision would see through the hardship to emerge victorious some day or other. Hence, in politics, just hang in the middle and leverage your opportunities judiciously to be the winner on your day. Arvind Kejriwal, once discredited and ruled out of the fray, proved that decisively. Mind, no one is out of the race – neither Congress nor Lalu, not even the Communists. They’re just biding time to rise from their ashes which one day, they will.

The second message is that key to political success is the ability of a politician to reach to the people in their own alleys. The Aam Aadmi Party had a people-centric vision and they planned things to implement that vision. While the opposition BJP – riding high on people’s mandate and money-power – made all sorts of noises about the ‘promised’ development on the television and social media, the AAP volunteers huddled back to the drawing board, drew a robust plan and went to the deepest alleys in the remotest corners of Delhi to reach to the last man from the marginalized section of society convincing them that they were their last hope. The people believed them because they found them well-intentioned, honest and approachable as opposed to the traditional politicians cut off from the masses and the ground realities. Tea with ‘Barrack’ is definitely important but no less important is to continue tea parties with people as well in the way Modi had been doing during the Lok Sabha hustings.

The third message is that while living in this world, you can’t hope to survive by living on the ‘digital continent’ rather you need to come down to face the people in flesh and blood. In today’s world, social media is a wonderful way of connecting to the people but in no way it’s a substitute of a face-to-face contact. Those who think that the social media and radio contacts would keep them well-connected with masses need a serious re-think on their strategy. Had it been truth, the BJP, with its highest presence in social media, wouldn’t have been beaten so badly in the highly urbanized constituency of Delhi with a cosmopolitan outlook. Hence, the message is – don’t shy; be among the masses to wipe their tears, something that only a hand can do and not a Smartphone.

The fourth message is that the public can’t be fooled long with empty sloganeering and political symbolism. They’re fed up of talks of development, growth, progress and results. They’re ready to wait; they’re prepared to give you time. But, don’t fool. Show honest intentions. Slogan mongering is good for entertaining the audience but they can’t necessarily fetch votes. To win votes you need to win people’s faith which requires honest efforts and plausible outcomes. Hence, the message is – If you promise, deliver; if you say, fulfill; if you commit, enact or else be ready to be swept out of your ivory tower of illusion.

The fifth message is that never trample the ambition and wishes of your grassroot workers. The politicians feel that they carry the goodwill of people. But, that goodwill emanates from the abilities of their grassroot workers, who keep trudging the lanes and by-lanes of hinterlands over years building up the aura around their leaders’ persona and generating goodwill. But, the leaders sitting pretty comfortable on this goodwill forget the importance and relevance of such grassroot workers and insulate themselves from the latter’s voices. Thus, they take arbitrary decisions overlooking their collective interests. The same happened in BJP, which parachuted an outsider in Kiran Bedi into CM’s position, totally overlooking the wishes of its grassroot level workers who had been working since decades in the party. The result was general dissension among the cadre leading to a considerable dent on their enthusiasm. Hence, the message is – abuse abundantly, but respects your men when they ask for it.

The sixth message is that the masses are kind; they forgive your blunders if you approach them with folded hands admitting your mistakes and repenting them over and over again. The same happened with Indira Gandhi after emergency in 1980 and the same happened with Kejriwal now. He bowed his head in repentance and in absolute subservience to people’s judgment. The public conceded the mistakes of Arvind Kejriwal and rewarded him with a handsome second-term. Hence, when make mistakes, admit instead of offering irritating justifications.

The seventh message is that the people, when silent, are most decisive. In democracy, politics is the last refuge of people; if you play politics with them, they will play politics with you. Hence, politicians! Beware of people’s mood and work for collective interest. Time and again, people have expressed their verdict in a decisive manner. Hence, don’t mess up with people mood. When they make up their mind, they punish decisively.

The eighth message is that the marginalized poors, the social underdog and the have-nots are a dominant force in Indian democracy and time and again they’ve proved that when given a free and fair opportunity to exercise their mandate, they speak up with their votes. This constituency, which lied orphaned after the sad demise of the Indian left after the 2009 general elections, was a big constituency to cater to. The AAP has stepped into the void and seized the electorate.

The ninth message is that a strong state, having a formidable mandate of the people will have a better bargaining power with a strong centre. Hence, it will result into the era of a better-run co-operative federalism with a new hope for development.

The tenth and the most important message is that a strong opposition sitting in Delhi is good for the politics as it will act as a constant spectre of defeat in the visions of the central government resulting in curtailment of autocratic tendencies in the leaders. The aura of invincibility around any politician is not a good sign for democracy. The constant fear of people’s whim will be the driving force behind performance. Moreover, periodic defeats are necessary for political parties for much needed course corrections as well as for removal of complacency from their word-views, which creeps in eventually.

Krishna Kumar@ThoughtPourri 2015

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‘Modi…Modi…Modi’ : Decoding the psychology beneath the universal chant

PM Narendra Modi addressing the Indian-American community at the Madison Square Garden

‘Modi…Modi…Modi’…

As the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, donning a saffron jacket over a full-sleeved peach Kurta and chudidaar pyjama, enters the Madison Square Garden stadium to address the Indian-American community, the palms of the 20,000-strong audience rose to hem their respective mouths that screamed a maddening chant – ‘Modi…Modi…Modi’ – a chant which has now become constant, endemic and universal. It’s a chant that has transcended the boundaries of castes, language, religions, sex and cultures within India and has now travelled overseas to cast spell on the minds of the powerful Indian Diaspora spread all across the globe. People are passionate in chanting the name and fanatic in defending its appeal.

It’s important to understand what makes Modi so special among his followers; why a man in his mid-60’s is considered the ideal among a population that is predominantly young; what makes people, who are traditionally mad for cricket and Bollywood stars, getting swooned for him. The answer lies in the intricacies of the time.

Today, India is an emerging superpower. It’s the biggest democracy, one of the largest economies, one of the biggest military powers, one of the few privileged nuclear-haves and a powerful conqueror of the outer space in the world. It’s the second largest market of the world in terms of demand and constitutes probably the best pool of human resource globally. It’s a global IT powerhouse and a world leader in software technology. The Indian Diaspora spread across the nook and corner of the planet has proved its capacities and the voices of overseas Indian communities have emerged as important voices within their respective countries and societies. Today, India has come up as the global favorite for trade and investment and no country in the world, howsoever mighty and resourceful it may be, can afford to overlook India.

Yet, India wasn’t a pretty picture because the nation as a political community presented a somber countenance. The nation yearned for a strong leadership. The political leadership, over the years was a dud and was short on the X-factor; it lacked initiatives and looked disconnected with time. The leadership was unimaginative, uninspiring and thoroughly disappointing. A good many Indians felt distraught, disgusted and disillusioned with the political process and looked away from it. People wanted a strong man in the helm of affair; the young India wanted a leader who could be youthful, assertive and decisive; the well-off citizens of the nation wanted a leader who could protect their wealth, the middle class wanted freedom from corruption, the youth wanted jobs and the poors and destitute in villages wanted creation of more opportunities to improve their life situations. But, the leadership looked lost and clueless.

A great number of Indians in India and beyond its boundaries had long back started to deconstruct the essentials of a true leader for the emerging nation and on the basis of this deconstruction, had constructed the image of an ‘ideal’ leader capable of providing leadership to the emerging power called India. Since long, they were looking for a person that could be cast into this image but there was none. Now, with the gradual emergence of Narendra Modi on national scene, the long quest of Indians, desperate for their ‘constructed’ notion of a leader, seemed to be over. Narendra Modi truly came out as the man of the moment and in him the restless Indians found the contours of a great leader India was poised to witness after a pretty long time. No wonder the desperate India cried out ‘Modi, Modi’ and soon it became a razing chant. The chant, renting the air in each part of the diverse nation he visited, symbolized the hope, confidence and optimism of a billion plus population around him.

Modi successfully cultivated his image as a strong leader. He used his resources well and marketed himself with immaculate precision. He built up his persona and over the years it grew well enough to fit in the mould of the leadership ‘construct’ that this impatient nation had so passionately created. He parachuted into this mould and customized himself as per its dimension. He sounded strong, bold and confident. He connected not only with the urban affluent society or with the job-seekers of small towns or with the salaried middle class and with the destitute villagers but also with the religious inner core of a deeply-religious society and talked unashamedly of the religion of majority – something which is considered next to blasphemy in a country fed on the constant doses of Nehruvian construct of secularism. He came up as an unashamed Hindu apologist yet beautifully camouflaged his religious appeal behind his leitmotif of development. Thus, the pied piper of Gujarat had captured the imagination of a billion-plus population. His machineries worked upon his successfully crafted image of a saviour and the masses fell for him.

Thus, the chant of ‘Modi…Modi…Modi’ is the cheerful rant and optimist roar of a zealous population long disillusioned with an inactive, non-performing political leadership and hence the cry will keep resonating the airs over the Indian sub-continent and elsewhere so long the dream merchant carries the potentials to deliver on his promises.

Krishnakumar@ThoughtPourri 2014

http://krishnakumar.co

Rahul’s Interview by Arnab: A Missed Opportunity

 Cartoon: Courtesy Sudhir Tailang

Rahul Gandhi, the vice president of the Congress and the face of the Party in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, came forward to sit in front of a camera for a long interview with the angry-young man of the Indian media, Arnab Goswami, the editor-in-chief of the Times Now. The interview, the first in last ten years of UPA, was a sublime opportunity to the heir-apparent of the Congress to change the tone and tenor of our current socio-political discourse but, sadly, the man failed to rise to the occasion. Once again, he proved he was the biggest disappointment of our era. He has neither decibels nor substance; he’s just a dud.

The Congress is leaving no stone unturned to project the man as a youth icon and is spending fortune on his image make-over overtures. But, in absence of a political vision and a solid idea in him to take the nation to the next level of systemic and institutional changes, such overtures will hardly make an impact. As a leader, Rahul Gandhi is supposed to talk of change. He’s supposed to come up with few path-breaking ideas that could alter the political environment of the nation; he’s supposed to put forth few radical concepts that could revolutionize the way our institutions operate. But, he failed to rise to the occasion and to turn himself into a leader India wants him to be. Instead, he chose to remain stuck up into the same muddy ground his party has chosen for itself over the years. Today’s India wants to swim to the new waterfronts of opportunities but Rahul chose to slosh around the cesspool of dying ideas. In fact, he’s ended up being a morbid prisoner of his party’s legacy of stale ideas.

In the interview he chose to put all the blames of our current socio-political entanglements on the system. But, the point is who is responsible for degeneration in the system? Who has brought it to such a level of misery that it brings abhorrence and apathy in the consciousness of a common man? It’s your party Rahul, that is presiding over the system since last ten years and that has ruled the nation for close to 5 decades. If there is corruption, there is misgovernance, there is inefficiency or there is misuse of power then you’re responsible. If the system has become dysfunctional it’s you to blame. You must stand up and take the blame. But, you chose to remain silent on those scams and turned a mute spectator during the brazen loot of natural resources and of national wealth. Even in the interview, you failed to owe the blame. It was a golden opportunity Rahul to owe the responsibility and, like a mature leader, to talk on solutions. But, you let the interview pass by.

It was not the right occasion to point finger at the system rather it was the occasion to come up with solutions. You’ve identified the source of reigning ills but now you must display the vision and the guts to take on those ills. History tells us that all changes have come from few determined individuals who have carried a vision and have had steel fitted in their spines to implement those visions. A leader must carry conviction in his heart and clarity in his mind to transform the nation and society. Rahul Gandhi, unfortunately, has failed so far to display that clarity, conviction and spine. The interview gave him the golden opportunity to bandy about such ideas; but he showed, to our consternation, that he had none. He talked of empowerment all through the interview and cherished to make it a tool of socio-economic changes for the underprivileged and the women. But, where is the determination, Rahul? With the kind of position you’re in, the kind of goodwill under your belt and the kind of resources at your command, you’d have brought in an unimaginable revolution. But, in absence of a commitment to these causes displayable through actions on the ground, such utterances get reduced to nothing more than tutored homilies.

The 80-minute interview, as anticipated, was destined to get overshadowed by Arnab’s carefully designed questions on Narendra Modi that were few but disproportionate in connotation sure enough to draw the nation’s attention. Here, Rahul evoked the horrors of the Gujrat riots and tried to score a good few brownie points by pinning the blame on Modi. But, Rahul didn’t realize that he was hitting a self-goal in so much as any accusation made by his party at Modi on Gujrat riots brings the spotlight back to the anti-Sikkh riots of 1984 where the congress party has many skeletons to hide in its cupboard. The congress is accused of a pogrom of the same nature and the same administrative passiveness in dealing with it. Thus, by evoking the horrors of 2002 riots Rahul has created a mess for itself where the congress is being subjected to a renewed scrutiny on its actions during the riots. This was certainly not Rahul would have meant it to be in the election year.

The interview had given him an opportunity to rise up to the occasion and turn into a statesman of our era by putting forth a pragmatic view on Modi and 2002 riots. He had this opportunity to come forward and to say that the riot, whether 2002 or 1984, was definitely an unfortunate event but since the judicial process is on we should respect the same and should try to move on to focus on some more constructive issues of our time. He could have stolen the heart of the nation by refusing to get embroiled in the hackneyed and much despicable debate of riots. This way he would have largely been successful in changing the political discourse of our time and would have been credited with bringing about the politics of development back into focus. It would have been a tectonic shift in our era of politics and would have brought a bout of fresh air in the electoral arena of 2014. Of course, the Congress has many important things to pick from its 10 yrs of rule and to brandish the same before the nation. But, Rahul Gandhi failed to talk on the highs of his own governance; he failed to emphasize the achievements of his own government by being overshadowed by the discourses of riots. Thus, he failed in bring forth the tectonic shift.

The interview had brought him an immense opportunity to go for his desired image make-over. But, Rahul squandered this historic opportunity to turn himself into an adorable statesman from the imminent loser of his time.

A missed opportunity, of course.

KrishnaKumar@ThoughtPourri, 2014

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