Parliament election is no more a speculation. The date with ballot being just a month away, political heat is set to soar to new highs. The never ending campaign cavalcade of the netas will not allow the dust to settle. High pitched battle is on the cards and we will be lost in the shrill microphonic din. Every inch of visible and coveted public space will be filled with flex banners amply decorated with generously grinning netas with humble folded hands. Political rhetoric and name-calling are back. Catchy slogans from rivals provide good soundbytes for the press. The largest show of democratic process on earth has just begun.
Many pundits have already given their opinions on the electoral prospects from socio-demographic perspective. Let us analyse elections from another point of view. If we sit back and analyse, the electoral show around us is analogical to marketing campaigns of corporate groups fighting for their pie in a given product or service segment. We have seen pepsi versus cola advertisement war in the past. Likewise, competing political groups are busy building their "brands". Although political philosophy is about core ideologies, it has been overshadowed by other factors, in the current context. This is understandable because boundaries between different ideologies are slowly shrinking. Wide-spread symmetrical spectrum ranging from left to right is now heavily tilted towards centre to right. It will be hard to find today any nationally significant or relevant political group practicing diametrically opposite ideologies, although they may appear to be preaching different things. In summary, brand building includes articulation of a political group's plan of action (vision) so as to effectively reach out to the electorate. In other words, it is all about salesmanship.
Election season brings windfall gains to promotional industry. They have an opportunity to gain a share of huge promotional funds of rival political camps. Reaching out 1.2 billion people requires great deal of salesmanship. Complex political philosophies have to be compressed to meaningful one liners. As a new trend in Indian context, catchy acronyms representing leaders' pet names are gaining popularity everyday. NaMo and RaGa are the trending short names right now. If William can be Bill and Richard can be Dick, why should we object to some truly Indianised pet names for a change ? Now, let me spare some time to analyse our two current pet-named leaders.
NaMo has been a trend setter in many ways. Perhaps, this is the first short form of its kind to capture popular imagination in India. Traditional Indian masculine names have always had mythological connections but NaMo sounds all the more venerable. Its Sanskrit origin seems quite symbolic when the man himself inspires nationalistic spirit of high order.
Converting every adversity to an advantage seems to be the hallmark of NaMo's personal style. Every single day of his tenure as CM of Gujarat must have been an ordeal for him, facing hostility of opposition-sponsored individuals and NGOs working collusively with the sole agenda of maligning his public image. While NaMo seems to have come unscathed from the legal mess so far, opposition still continues with their committed agenda of scheming against him. It may not be exaggeration to say that NaMo owes some of his quick popularity to the likes of Digvijay Singh, Kapil Sibal, Manish Tiwari, Mani Shankar Iyer etc.,. NaMo is really smart to use every nasty jibe from opposition camp to create a favourable public opinion for himself. NaMo has also successfully milked his "humble" origin to great advantage in personal brand building. His chaiwala tag has provided a unique and novel theme adding formidable ammunition to his campaign. Sensing some opportunity to gain mileage from this new-found social title, even a veteran like Lalu claimed his own inheritance to chaiwala legacy !
NaMo is often called a dictator by his opponents. He is also described as someone who will either destroy his enemies or buy them over to his side. No wonder, opposition party is almost non-existent in Gujarat because they have either defected to NaMo's side or given up their fight. Experts agree that any style to management has to be finally judged by its effectiveness. When we apply the practical yardstick of continued endorsement by his voters, NaMo's style stands vindicated. If we look at the mess around us, a well meaning dictator seems to be need of the hour. To be fair to the size of our democracy, we can try to slightly modify the prescription for India's future leader as an authoritarian statesman. NaMo readily fits this requirement.
NaMo is a third time CM of a reasonable big and prosperous state of India. NaMo's tenure as CM of Gujarat also saw many achievements for the state, winning many awards for the new initiatives. Apart from providing 24 hours power supply, good roads, industrial investment etc., his state also witnessed unprecedented harmony in the society with no incidence of any communal violence for 12 long years. Backed with such statistics, NaMo's claims carry conviction.
NaMo is aggressive but we can hardly find any statements or actions from him that backfire. He knows what to say, when and to what effect. He is supposed to have a qualified team of advisors but what seems to work in his favour is that NaMo knows how to make best use of such a team. Anybody else would have been provoked to issue public statements against Kejrival for the kind of anti-NaMo activities he indulges in everyday. But NaMo has a unique ability of ignoring such provocations which results in not granting legitimacy to such antics. Such street smartness gives NaMo immense edge over his opponents and peers as well.
Namo has been wise enough to ensure that his not-so-illustrious academic background and perceived lack of proficiency in spoken English do not become limitations in his progress as a politician. It is no mean task if one can manage to hog limelight at international levels overcoming all the practical hurdles of a humble family and educational backgrounds. In this sense, he also represents true power of modern democracy. It is still early to predict whether NaMo will be PM of India post 2014 elections, but he is the shining example of a self-made individual who can inspire a generation. He will remain a hero for long time for whatever he has achieved in life. If he has the ambition to be the PM of our country, he definitely deserves to nurse such an dream. With the exception of Lal Bahadur Shastri, Narasimha Rao and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, we have seen pretty ordinary people occupying the post of PM of this country with disastrous long term implications. It is time this huge country of over a billion people got a true leader.
At the core of an individual's confidence is self-belief. Judiciously nurtured confidence leads to performance. Finally, continued performance comes to be recognized as competence. While almost anybody can be a lame follower, it requires (apart from competence), vision, charisma, experience, intelligence etc., to be a trendsetter. NaMo fills this rare category to deserve the title of a leader in the real sense.
Now, let us dwell briefly on the profile of RaGa who appears to be a study in contrast. RaGa belongs to the so-called political first family of Independent India where 3 generations of his elders have been Prime Ministers. Going by the practice of his party to nominate successive generations from the same family to the top job whenever elected to power, RaGa has earned a parallel title of shehjada. Spokespersons of his party have often found it tough to react to this derisive reference in any other way except falling back on the standard argument of internal "democratic" process of electing their leader.
It is debatable whether certain privileges are a boon or a bane – this seems particularly relevant in RaGa's case. All of us have been readily sympathetic to the fact that RaGa must have had tough time as a teenager to witness to series of tragedies in his family. But RaGa gives an impression of being not-so-brave when he tries to ride on a sympathy wave by referring to the "martyrdoms" of his elders. Being born in a family that brings ready privileges can have its flip sides too. Nature has always its fair and balanced package. Our countrymen have already paid due sympathies for the personal tragedies of RaGa's family and he is not likely to be granted any further mileage for on account of ancestral martyrdom.
People of our country will readily recognize that RaGa was blessed to be born with a proverbial silver spoon in his mouth. Rare privilege of growing up as part of the political first family of India must have given invaluable exposure to the big world through family discussions and ring side view of various dignitaries from around the world visiting his household. It is natural that one's perspective of an issue at hand depends on the level of exposure. In RaGa's case, it is not certain whether such a huge exposure helped him at all. As I see it, main problem with RaGa is not being able to match the expectations of public with his performance. While he is supposed to be a solution provider because of his long heritage and connection to those who managed the country's affairs, he has hardly shown any promise in the last 10 years of his active political career that he can handle any situation with maturity.
RaGa has seen power from close quarters. But problem seems to be that he lacks personal experience because he has never handled any democratic assignment carrying public accountability even at a pachayat level. Going by the practice of his family where a next generation starts at a minimum level of PM, it is not surprising that RaGa never chose to accept the gauntlet to be the CM nominee during elections to the big and politically decisive state of UP earlier. Akhilesh Yadav may not have achieved anything yet as a CM but he is surely far ahead in practical experience of managing a complex state like UP. I sincerely believe, had RaGa shown the courage to be a CM candidate in UP, he could have not only won, but could also carry that advantage for the natural progression to PM's post. For this reason alone, RaGa comes across as a laid back person for whom politics does not seem to be a full time profession.
RaGa is also supposed to have been educated in reputed foreign institutions (ignoring many contradictory counter claims to this effect). In addition, RaGa has the benefit of access to huge team of advisors and valuable insights from a host of experienced political administrators from his party. This again, seems to be a baggage to RaGa rather than a benefit because of his unenviable task of having to defend a huge incumbency factor and be answerable to all the mis-deeds and scams of his partymen. His display of mis-placed activism to protest against decisions of his own government fail to cut any ice with public but are rather seen as insincere gimmicks for publicity.
RaGa seems to have an uncanny knack to miss opportunities coming his way. He had a golden opportunity to blunt public outrage against UPA government when Anna was holding a fast unto death on Jan lokpal bill. This act alone had the potential to mask the effects of all the scams of UPA regime and give RaGa the benefit of doubt as a "fresh entrant", a privilege his father managed to harness well in his early days. Strangely, RaGa never spoke nor appeared publicly during Anna's movement against corruption. If he had taken pro-active role during those days, our country could have been spared the trouble of having to endure a nuisance called AAP.
It is reported that RaGa has a big team of advisors for various issues. His vocal political advisors include the famous Rajyasabha gang of Digvijay Singh, Jairam Ramesh, Madhusoodan Mistry among others. Unfortunately, very often, these political advisors demonstrate their lack ability to gauge pulse of the nation accurately who end up ill-advising their boss. RaGa obviously lacks inherent competence to make best use of counsel from external advisors. Recent (and rare) interview of RaGa on prime time TV was an example of how limited can be the role of advisors in a leader's life. This image building exercise ended up as a big flop and actually caused irrecoverable damage to his image just before elections.
Finally, let me invoke our traditional charitable line "may the best leader prevail" in the coming elections. Let me also add a qualifier, NaMo seems to be better than the best at this moment ! Bharatamata deserves more and is waiting for her turn to shine yet again...