Wednesday, 15 March 2017

[] Fwd: Modi’s ‘rainbow coalition’: lessons from the state polls


Modi's 'rainbow coalition': lessons from the state polls




As I write this, with bated breath, the whole country awaits the outcome of the UP elections. The various exit polls, despite varying numbers, show a common trend: outright victory in UP and Uttarakhand for the BJP, significant chances in Goa and Manipur, with Punjab a close call between Congress and AAP. Political pundits, in the meanwhile, are busy analysing the implications of the various possible outcomes. By the time this column appears, however, the suspense will be well-nigh over; as the day progresses, the final tallies will be evident. Exit polls have been known, especially in India, to be off the mark. It would be therefore foolish to comment on what is as yet uncertain or unknown. But in terms of lessons in leadership, what might we glean from the hustings?



The term, 'rainbow coalition', used variously to describe ANC's inclusive push for power under Nelson Mandela or Rev Jesse James's first African-American bid for power in the US, is now being applied by English anchors in India to PM Modi's impending victorious sweep: even his worst detractors seem to be admitting that Modi's "rainbow coalition" is a big hit in UP.



If analysed carefully, such an alliance is only the positive rejig of earlier negative, minoritarian coalitions brokered by the Congress. The major difference is that Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have succeeded in uniting a broad spectrum of Hindu communities across complicated and contentious caste lines by their magic 'vikas mantra', making it the watchword of economic and social progress in India. This mantra is also accompanied by Bharatiya asmita and gaurav, the euphoria of making India proud again.



Clearly, the vikas mantra has out-powered other shibboleths such as social justice or minority appeasement. While the Congress culture, inherited from our colonial masters, seemed to be divide and rule, the BJP's is unite to rule. If the logic of this consolidation is to be followed one step farther, it is only a matter of time before larger and larger sections of Muslims will join such a coalition rather than opting for special, most often inconsequential, 'minority' privileges offered by earlier regimes.



Modi's rainbow collation, in other words, has room for further expansion and inclusion as it delivers more and more on its fundamental promise, which is sab ka saath, sab ka vikas.



These elections, if they go in favour of the BJP, also show how indispensable party organisation and discipline are. Professional campaign management must compliment the magnetism of outstanding leaders for real electoral gains to accrue.



We cannot underestimate the charisma and credibility of the man himself: Narendra Modi is a national icon today. It is his assurance and larger-than-life persona that underwrites such mantras of progress, rather than some magic wand being waved over the heads of the gullible masses. However, no one can be fooled forever by empty promises. The ruling party's sincerity and success in making good on its promises, in offering a low-corruption high-efficiency model of governance, makes all the difference. That is why demonetization, despite enormous hardships to common people and uncertain long-term economic gains, worked. It was a gesture towards cleansing the system, which the public appreciated.



But following such spectacular success, the point of the Prime Minister's personal prowess cannot be underlined again and again. The cache of goodwill should not be squandered, but used for more meaningful and transformative reforms.



A second line of leadership must be fostered at the state level after establishing clear parameters of competence and accountability. A great party is made up of large cohorts and promising leaders, not one single strong man, looming large over all others. Indeed, the latter is the defining characteristic of both totalitarian and authoritarian systems, not of democracies. The BJP must actively foster leadership at all levels; after all, most elections are fought on local issues. Clearly identified local leaders, even a Chief Ministerial candidate, with a clean image and record of service can only help at the hustings.



The Congress is a party in a self-destruct mode. Failure after failure dogs its steps as it finds itself rendered more and more irrelevant in both national and state politics. Why is this happening?



Again, the finger of suspicion points to the crisis in leadership. Everywhere in the country we see how single-leader parties or parties controlled by single families gradually break up or fail.



In UP too, it was the family feud, whether staged or real, of the Mulayam Singh clan of Yadavas, that brought about their downfall in the eyes of the people. In Punjab, similarly, the Badal family, with its endless appetite for centralising power and pelf has led to the undoing of the Akalis.



With Didi in Bengal, not to speak of Behenji in UP, the late Amma in Tamil Nadu, or Naveen Patnaik in Odisha, enjoyed the people's support, it was because they were perceived as being single, without a family or dynasty who would continue to monopolise the spoils of office. A state or nation belongs to its entire people, not to one family or dynasty. That is the clear message from the elections. If you do not believe in broad-basing leadership and sharing the profits of power, people are likely to reject you.



Last but not the least, these elections mark a definite shift in media attitudes, especially the elite, English channels. From outright opposition to derisive condescension, the English media now stands sheepishly corrected, if not on its way to being fully converted. There is sometimes open, sometimes grudging admiration not only for PM Modi, the nation's political superman, but for his party. They must be doing something right to win election after election. As to their ideology, ah well — the less said the better, but who knows, the secularists may change on this score as well. Nothing succeeds, we know, as success.



(The author is a poet and professor at JNU, New Delhi.)




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