An East Delhi Citizen's Blog

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Archive for the tag “Narasimha Rao”

Why voting Congress is a mistake

Harini Calamur in PoV has gone public with her preferences in this election: Why I am voting Congress.

I follow Harini; you should too. Thoughtful, multifaceted and open. More power to her voice and people like her. Even though, in this case, Harini, I totally disagree 🙂
My disagreement is not with your freedom of choice or even the choice itself. That’s your democratic right. I will even concede that given the poor choices we have in this election among all the parties and individuals asking for our votes, Congress can seem as good or as bad as others. But, I differ with your stated reason. Using Manmohan Singh as a sort of tie-breaker between BJP and Congress; just because he is an eminent economist? Come on! Why did the Americans elect a lawyer, then?
Harini, Manmohan Singh was good as a finance minister under Rao because he did not have to worry about the political fallout of his decisions. Rao did it for him. Also, it can be argued that he was always a reluctant reformist, as could be expected from a career bureaucrat who was steeped in Nehruvian socialism.

Let’s look at the so called dream team: Manmohan, PC and Montek. Brainy guys with oodles of experience. Yet, what is the legacy they are leaving behind? What have they built? Are they leaving us in any better shape to face the challenges of poor roads, water scarcity (Supreme Court just sent a ultimatum to the government to get its act together), law and order (20-30% of the country is in Naxalite hands), electricity, sanitation… I can’t remember any initiative of the government in the last five years. Were all of these stalled by the recalcitrant allies?

A prime minister is a CEO. He has to articulate a vision, get a team together and energise the team around the shared vision and execute on the vision.
Manmohan/ Congress’ vision: What was that?
Manmohan/ Congress’ team: Ramadoss: fighting with Venugopal, Raja: poor in even elementary arithmetic, Arjun Singh: diluting higher education standards.. Shivraj Patil: how can we sack him, he is so loyal?
Execution: With the team above, what do you expect? As Buffet says, “it is only in low tide, you can find out who is swimming naked”.
So, Harini, I am sorry. When I vote in Delhi, I will not vote for Congress.


Why I miss Vajpayee and Narasimha Rao

.. Leadership at a premium

Large swathes of rain forests have been destroyed over the years in printing scholarly articles on leadership. It is not my intention to add to the noise. There are, as I explain to my pre-teen daughter, only 3 true tests of true political leadership.

Vision: You must demonstrate an overarching vision for taking the people, the entire nation forward. Your vision must be inclusive, must make space for conflicting ideologies and aspirations and would be something that posterity will remember you by. Above all, you must be able to articulate that vision in terms that everyone in the country can understand and connect to.
Team-building: You must be able to build a strong consensus around your vision. You must be able to identify a core and extended team that will evangelize the vision, buy into the success of the vision and want to execute on the vision.
Execution: You must be able to execute on your vision and put together lasting systems and processes and people who will take your ideas forward even when you do not exist. You must clearly articulate short-term milestones and long term goals. You must understand conflicts and their sources and encourage the constructive ones and ruthlessly root out the unproductive ones.

Let’s see how Vajpayee measures up to these tests. He will be remembered by the Golden quadrilateral: a gigantic visionary project as much as moving to limit the number of ministers in the cabinet and statutory measures to limit the fiscal deficit. In all these, he articulated the vision, ensured a coalition of support and executed in the face of a very tenuous parliamentary majority. Contrast this with Rajiv Gandhi, a politician who certainly had it all: popularity, huge parliamentary majority and unquestioned leadership within his party. All we got was a lot of hot air and by way of lasting legacy, the Shah Bano case.
Now let’s see how Narasimha Rao fares. He also ran a government with tenuous majority, if that. But, he had a vision for the economy, he built a team (Manmohan Singh, Montek et al) and insulated them from political pressures as they lay down the blue-print for the frenetic pace of reforms that followed. Those that credit Manmohan Singh as the architect of reforms, have to only see his record as PM with Chidambaram as a FM. What initiative would this team be remembered for? The same man, more powerful position but without political management of a master, a chronic underperformer.
It is probably no accident that Narasimha Rao and Vajpayee were close personal friends. They may have been on two sides of the poltical divide, but they were more alike than you would normally think.

As we get into election season and have to choose among parties, their programs and their leaders, how I wish we were choosing between Vajpayee and Rao.

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