Imperatives of an alternative, responsive leadership

Imperatives of an alternative, responsive leadership

Hari Jaisingh

Hari Jaisingh

A visionary and dare- devil leader as a “guidepost” can make all the difference on and off the field. It is probably in this light that Carlyle once observed: of all “rights of man”, the right of the ignorant man to be guided by the wiser, to be, gently or forcibly, held in true course by him is “indisputable”. Of course, the question of political leadership and authority is a complex phenomenon, especially in the Indian situation.

The people here look for an ideal image – charismatic and formidable, but in the traditional mould. It is against this mould that we suddenly find serious gaps. No wonder, one area of grave scarcity in our national life is leadership. This is being said when we find the stalwarts of the freedom struggle and post-independence years are no longer in our midst.

A simple answer to the paucity of talent is that the political atmosphere, over a period of time, has got vitiated to such an extent that most decent persons either shun politics or get marginalized by operators, manipulators and vested interests.

To say that is not to suggest that we don’t have veterans and promising young persons in our midst. Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party success story in Delhi speaks a lot on youngsters’ talent. Still, look at the national level, we often feel suffocated because of the increasing domination of undesirable characters.

The question here is: how can the political arena attract persons of character and integrity if petty operators and power-brokers continue to call the shots? In the process, national voices of dissent get killed or marginalized.

In this context, I wish to recall the words of Justice D Y Chandrachud of the Supreme Court at Ahmedabad on February 15. He said:

“Within bound of law, liberal democracies ensure citizens’ every right to express themselves in every conceivable manner, including the right to protest. The blanket labeling of dissent as anti-national or anti-democratic strikes at the heart of commitment to protection of constitutional values and promotion of a deliberative democracy”.I would like Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah to take note of this observation.

What is regrettable is that the politics of expediency has been breeding opportunistic leaders. In fact, politics today has become business, giving respectability to undesirable characters.

Politics is no longer one of the means to serve the people selflessly. It is a profession-cum-business for money and power. This lust has brought into play a visible or invisible “political hand” in almost every segment of national life. What a pity!

I have drawn the above scenario after looking closely at the national scene which is largely dominated today by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, both from the BJP’s Gujarat. I have no personal grudge against them. I particularly admire PM Modi for his qualities of heart and mind. At the same time, I feel disappointed at the way they conducted the BJP’s election campaign in the Delhi Assembly poll. They were looking at India selectively in terms of Hindus and Muslims. I do not expect national leaders, whichever party they belong to, to see India in a distorted form and in myopic angularities. I hope they will learn the lessons from their poor show in Delhi.

The moot point is: where do we go from here? How do we get an alternative leadership at the national level who could “ride” in the whirlwind” and direct the storm? After all, a leader is not like a consumer product to be produced in a factory on a “made to order” basis. He or she is pushed up by circumstances, or arrives through interaction of various factors and forces.

All the same, there has to be certain basic qualities. What the country needs today is a fair, mature and determined people-oriented visionary leadership committed to value-based democracy and egalitarian development.

Mahatma Gandhi had spelt out certain details eloquently on these lines: courage, endurance, fearlessness and above all, self-sacrifice. He said that “a person belonging to suppressed class exhibiting these qualities in full would certainly be able to lead the nation, whereas the most accomplished orator, if he has not these qualities, must fail”.

Well, it may be asked: who is failing whom at what cost? This is no longer a guarded secret. People know who is what and what is what. But they continue to experiment in the hope that they will find the right leaders to lead them correctly, efficiently and honestly.

They may be looking for a King Vikramaditya who ruled and acted justly. To achieve his goal, they would require a high degree of conscience. Gandhi once remarked that a leader is “useless when he acts against the promptings of his own conscience”.

I am equally disappointed by the politics of rigidity of PM Modi’s government. In the face of raging countrywide protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Prime Minister Modi has once again asserted emphatically that there would be no rethink on the new law enacted by Parliament. A democratic leader of the world’s largest democracy has to be truly democratic in both letter and spirit.

Besides, democracy demands an open mind on controversial matters which can be resolved through the process of dialogue. He has to keep in mind that, in the final analysis, what is in national interest has to be decided by the people at large. They have every right to think and rethink on any complex issue, beyond fixed political parameters. PM Modi, therefore, is expected to have an open mind and be responsive to public opinion, rather than being rigid.

What is regrettable is that most leaders today have either mortgaged their conscience or have killed it in the rat race of false glory and money business. For a democratic polity like ours this is near-disastrous. The entire socio-economic structure will have to radically recast and refashioned to meet the changing needs and challenges.

India today needs a dialogue-based democratic polity. Equally vital is the plurality of opinions and no attempts to quell peaceful protests. It is necessary that the authorities should learn to develop respect for diversity and freedom of expression which is the essence of Indian democracy.

I expect PM Modi to read Justice Chandrachud’s speech at the Gujarat HC auditorium to understand the importance of the right to dissent in a vibrant democracy like ours.


The facts are views expressed in the article are those of the writer.