Redefining the idea of strong leadership

Kapil Sibal | Updated on May 06, 2019

A heavy price: Demonetisation has wrecked economic growth.   -  V Sudershan

Modi’s overtly muscular, majoritarian politics is responsible for the social schisms and economic instability that we see today

The narrative BJP wants India to embrace centres around a strong leader and a stable government. Their definition of strength as I understand is the following: Decisive leader, who leads from the front; who has the muscle power to deal with Pakistan and the ability to rekindle lost Hindu pride.

Their definition of stability is the assertion of a majoritarian culture targeting elements who allegedly owe their allegiance to Pakistan; Modi alone, they claim, is gifted with the attributes of a strong leader and his muscular policies will bring about stability in the lives of 1.3 billion people.

A strong leader?

This emasculated definition of a strong leader has blurred our vision. On the contrary, a true leader should have both the inclination and strength to respect constitutional values and what they stand for. A strong leader must have the capacity to take responsibility for all his actions. A leader’s strength lies in the ability to carry all along with him or her. Modi has completely failed in doing this. Our diversity is under threat. The spectre of violence is in the air. Those dissenting are targeted.

Gaurakshaks demoralise minorities for dealing in cattle. Some members of the minority community have lost their lives. Those leading the forces of ‘Love jihad’ were emboldened when Modi maintained a deathly silence, making no move to condemn such acts. ‘Ghar wapsi’ was yet another form of violence. Modi’s reticence in all this can hardly be regarded as an example of strong leadership.

One of the attributes of a strong leader is to unite the country and take it forward. Leaders build bridges within and across communities and castes. A strong leader instead of embracing the message of hate, exudes compassion; should have the ability to engage instead of pandering to forces of societal disengagement.

A strong leader does not use divisive agendas to marginalise populations, making them feel insecure. He or she must instinctively reach out to the people. He is not meant to be a mere poster-boy for every national accomplishment. In fact, the presence of the poster-boy in almost all diverse media platforms itself suggests a sense of insecurity; not a sign of strength but weakness.

Strength should never be demonstrated. It should be allowed to be recognised. Modi seeks to demonstrate his so-called strength through media blitzkriegs, hoping for recognition and approbation. A strong leader should have the ability to be respected by all and must never be impetuous in decision-making. The leadership must think things through before public pronouncements.

DeMo, GST fiascos

Preparation before decisiveness is a sign of wisdom. Decisiveness without preparation reeks of incompetence. Both demonetisation and multiple rates of GST are examples of utter incompetence and lack of leadership. Demonetisation wrecked economic growth and GST as conceived and implemented destabilised both trade and industry. Modi has never taken responsibility for his actions, an essential attribute of a strong leader. Take any definition of leadership, Modi fails on all counts.

The stability of India has been shaken in the last five years. In Kashmir, children have taken to throwing stones at security personnel. Instead of addressing the issue of alienation, the debate over Articles 370 and 35A has dominated national discourse for electoral gain. Kashmir has moved from relative stability in 2014 to utter instability today. Divisive forces in the North East have also led to fear amongst those who are regarded as outsiders. Public pronouncements that NRC will be used to target so called infiltrators and outsiders has bred suspicion.

Rising unemployment

Economy policy-making lacks vision. The rate of unemployment is at a 45-year high. There are no jobs for those who graduate from school or college. The young have taken to violence in the absence of meaningful occupations. Universities have become hotbeds of divisive agendas. Machinations are afoot, that those with a particular kind of ideology and mindset occupy key positions within the university system impacting academic autonomy and independence.

An environment in which investigating agencies breathe down the necks of traders, entrepreneurs, business and industry, hardly caters to economic stability and progress. This is why thousands of young people and businesses have moved out of India, either to Dubai or to other greener pastures. In the absence of demand, the credit off-take from banks is tepid. Rising NPAs have shaken the banking system. The IBC resolution process has an exceptionally uneven record.

Majoritarian political discourse has shaken the confidence of many. Even the majority community is divided between those who embrace ‘Hindutva’ and others who believe that it is the very antithesis of what Hinduism stands for.

To top it all, our neighbourhood too has become unstable due to our faulty policies. Modi and his politics have been singularly responsible for the instability that we witness today.

An unstable India today needs a visionary leadership, which, rather than indulging in a show of strength has the capacity to fully absorb what our nation has always stood for. India will only be stable when our constitutional values permeate into the mindset of all those who are proud of being Indian.

The writer is a senior Congress leader

Published on May 06, 2019

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