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Amitava Chattopadhyay

Amitava Chattopadhyay
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Indian politics has a leadership vacuum!

As I read the news this morn­ing on the BBC web­site, over break­fast at the New Delhi hotel I was stay­ing, I came upon a news item about Chi­nese lead­ers dis­cussing reforms. It made me think of the news about polit­i­cal hap­pen­ings in India, as the nation gears up for par­lia­men­tary elec­tions that must be held dur­ing the first half of 2014. In con­trast to the BBC arti­cle about dis­cus­sion of pol­icy among China’s top lead­ers, the Indian polit­i­cal debate lead­ing up to elec­tions seems to be more about indi­vid­ual char­ac­ters and char­ac­ter assas­si­na­tion. Thus, one report in the Times of India a cou­ple of days ago ran the head­line “Rahul will be around even if Cong loses, but not Modi: Jairam Ramesh” — Mr. Ramesh is a par­lia­men­tar­ian from the Con­gress Party.


Another report yes­ter­day, in the same news­pa­per, reported that, Mr. Narendra Modi, the BJP prime min­is­te­r­ial can­di­date for the com­ing elec­tions, at a rally in UP, said that “Those in power could not defeat me in three con­sec­u­tive elec­tions in Gujarat. They know that they can­not defeat me through elec­toral process, hence they have deployed CBI and Indian Mujahideen against me”. These com­ments from across the polit­i­cal spec­trum show the depths to which polit­i­cal debate has sunk in India.

With the econ­omy slow­ing, one would have expected the polit­i­cal debate to focus on poli­cies to return to the pre-2008 growth tra­jec­tory, debat­ing paths to get­ting there, and try­ing to build a con­sen­sus which would then lead to the par­lia­men­tary out­comes in mid-2014. What we get instead from our so-called lead­ers is mud­sling­ing that is utterly vac­u­ous from a pol­icy point of view.

What is sad but inter­est­ing is that in some cases the com­ments actu­ally point to the malaise in Indian pol­i­tics, although per­haps those mak­ing them do not actu­ally get it. Con­sider for exam­ple the com­ment attrib­uted to Mr. Jairam Ramesh noted above. It sug­gests that Mr. Rahul Gandhi will be around in pol­i­tics no mat­ter whether the Con­gress Party wins or loses.

This is dynas­tic pol­i­tics, not the pol­i­tics of a lib­eral democ­racy where the party lead­er­ship that fails to take the party to vic­tory is replaced by fresh blood and new think­ing. This is pre­cisely the prob­lem with the pol­i­tics of the Con­gress Party and, inter­est­ingly, Mr. Ramesh a tech­no­crat who is a grad­u­ate of India’s pres­ti­gious IIT Bom­bay, made this com­ment with­out real­iz­ing how inap­pro­pri­ate it was; and that is the most char­i­ta­ble attri­bu­tion possible!

Rahul Gandhi

With­out real lead­er­ship, more mature polit­i­cal behav­ior, with­out polit­i­cal par­ties that for­mu­late poli­cies based on some under­ly­ing philo­soph­i­cal per­spec­tive or ide­ol­ogy, I fear for our future no mat­ter which party comes to power in 2014! Clearly, there is a rea­son why China con­tin­ues to grow at close to 8%. Take heed and learn.

  Nov 9, 2013 | Musings





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