Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Is our PM a good leader?

Great minds are not necessarily great leaders. Knowledgeable and brilliant minds are not necessarily great teachers. I remember my days in college where I occasionally made serious attempt to stay attentive in the class when a certain professor with a reputation of "knowing his stuff" would teach. However, I couldn't help falling asleep. Now leaving aside a chance of iron deficiency, there were two reasons for this. 1. My own lack of interest in the subject. 2. The professor unable to convey his ideas effectively. I was in a mess and if it weren't for Primera Vista and Maddy I would have flunked my vivas. The point I'm trying to make here is that both these guys were of my age and the professor in question had more knowledge and experience than both combined but they were able to able to communicate the concepts more effectively than the professor. The problem here was that the professor knew his stuff but couldn't make the class listen.

I got the same feeling today after listening to our Prime Minister's address to the nation where he explained how the recent hike in fuel prices was inevitable. It is pretty obvious that his party would get the stick from the Left and the opposition for hiking fuel prices when the country is battling against inflation. But it was something that had to be done. The state-run oil companies could not absorb more losses than they already have and the only alternative left was to transfer some minimum burden onto the junta. It makes sense to present the case before the people but it was really sad to see the PM sounding extremely apologetic about the steps he had taken. It sounded as if we were attacked by our neighbours and the PM was conceding defeat. I couldn't take it after 2 minutes and I switched the channel. As a Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh failed to communicate his ideas to me, a common man.

Now, no one can doubt Mr. Singh's credentials as a top economist and a brilliant finance minister. After all, he's a key architect in Indian economy's resurgence in the last 15 years. However, it doesn't make him a leader with natural charisma that captivates and awes the millions when he speaks. The last one year in particular has been a test of his leadership capabilities. Right from convincing his own allies about signing the Nuke deal with the US to the present oil crisis, our PM has compromised and bent before his party's wishes. A mild-mannered PM appeared perennially bent at the hips and could not push forward his policies to his own allies, let alone the opposition. He came out with the right ideas but fell short of convincing everyone about them. This probably is the difference between an economist and a voice of a billion people. Compare that to Narendra Modi, a man everyone loves to hate but listens to. He's brash, with no remorse for his sins, a man who should be tried for mass genocide, but when he speaks Gujarat listens. And because he can make them listen, they feel that he's fighting the Hindutva cause, he's the man that will change the history of Gujarat, he's their voice.

Leadership is not about being the most qualified in terms of knowledge in the domain. It is about mananging people and making them listen to you. A.P.J Abdul Kalam was the voice of our generation. Pratibha Patil isn't. Mayawati is the voice of the downtrodden in UP, Rahul Gandhi isn't. In Maharashtra, the ones reaching out to people are the Thakarey cousins. The Congress is silent. The Congress is facing a void in leadership since the assasination of the Gandhi mother and son, who could reach out to the people. They never filled up that void and now its hurting them. The secular flag won't work now. Billion people want their voice to be heard. They want someone to give them that voice. Who will step up and answer their call?

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