Monday, August 24, 2009

It's about leadership stupid.

Now this must qualify as one of the most dim witted statement I have heard from Ravi Shankar Prasad and the BJP. In an interview on TV yesterday (in an obvious reference to the likes of Jaswant Singh, Sudheendra Kulkarni et. al.) he said that there are these intellectuals who come to the party are rewarded with good posts and then they go away when things don't go as per their wishes, while the average party worker sweats for the party without any rewards for his effort and the sole motive of serving the country and the party.

Well if he was suggesting that now the masses (of the cadre) will lead the masses (the general public) it is downright silly. If he said this in an attempt to boost the morale of the party workers it sounds all too disingenuous.

Looks like, the BJP has forgotten the lessons from the life of Ram (and perhaps also their own history). Only a Ram could have transformed a vanar sena (army of monkeys) into a powerful force that devastated the much powerful army of Ravan. The vanar sena gave itself willingly for Ram. It was their faith in Ram and his cause (that he represented without compromise) that gave them their strength. Led by Ram the vanar sena could win against a mighty demonic army.

So if you e.g. consider me to be a common BJP supporter (a vanar in the BJP’s army) I'd gladly give my time and energy for an inspiring leader. I'm sure that's also true for the hundreds of thousands of the cadres and the ordinary BJP supporters.

People gladly gave their time and energy and even undertook great risks when Vajpayee and Advani provided the leadership. That's what propelled the BJP forward. Leadership. That's what propels an army, a nation, an enterprise forward. Leadership.

All the talk about ‘collective leadership’ is humbug. Shared responsibility? Yes. Collective leadership? That's an oxymoron.

If at all it is that the BJP has to find its next Vajpayee and the next Advani and even the next Jaswant. Surely there must be great talent amongst its cadres but the search cannot be limited to this group.

By the way, the best assaults on the treasury benches in the parliament were led by rebel BJP camp (Jaswat Singh, Yashwant Sinha et. al.). And if the incumbent camp (Advani, Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj et. al. look a little jaded in comparison, it is perhaps their compromise with excellence that has robbed them of their shine.

Monday, June 8, 2009

It should be the Ganga now

While Ram temple agitation symbolised the awakening of the Hindu society to deterioration of secular values (what Advani called Pseudo Secularism). Today it has lost its usefulness. And I don't mean as an instrument for political gain, but as an instrument to take forward the Hindu society to the next level and as a force to unify the Hindu society. 

I heard a political commentator attacking the BJP on TV post election results saying that it was our duty to provide leadership to the Muslims who chose to stay back in India after the partition and the BJP has failed in that duty.

My view is that we can leave much of that task (of providing leadership to the Muslims) to the Congress and so called secularist formations. As a right wing party, we have a more important task of providing the leadership to the Hindus. 

I think that while the RAM temple can and should wait for an amicable solution to be worked out, saving the Ganga (and all the rivers in India) cannot.

There is a need to move in a new and the more urgent direction. The Hindu people have to move beyond yesterday’s issues and grievances, towards the kind of society we want to build for the future based on our values and traditions.

Ganga represents the urgent concerns of today and tomorrow an in, the Degradation of our natural wealth; Poisoning of our water, food and air; Failure of the management of our cities and towns’ Unsustainablility of the present pattern of development; Unbridled development, Degradation of our forest and farms, with the huge economic cost of that burden falling on the poorest. Indeed our very survival is as threat. The dying of our rivers are the ominous signs of it.

Ganga is as much part of our traditional, spiritual and religious symbolism as Ram is. Indian people are as much emotionally attached to the Ganga as they are to Ram.

Ganga symbolises what the young, the intelligent and the ordinary people in India would find easy to connect to. It is also something that cannot be dismissed as a divisive agenda. If anything it will be an even greater unifying force. Saving the rivers will benefit as much the Hindus as the Muslims and Christians. It will be the Hindu society fighting to save something that benefits all, reaching out to not just a larger Hindu society, but the whole nation and indeed the world at large.

The social & political causes (represented by article 370, Ram Janmabhoomi, Common Civil Code etc.) that the BJP fought for in the 90’s must now become subservient to the more urgent environmental, health and economic causes. Represented by the drive to save Ganga (rivers), the drive to popularize Traditional (and Preventive) Health Care, to arrest the spiraling health care costs; Equal Opportunity & Benefit to all, to check the kind of Crony Capitalism practiced by the current government that benefits a few with least regards to the common good; and so on.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Support Entrepreneurial India

SEZs, FDI, auctioning of Telecom licenses, awarding contracts on bids for PPP project, are all forms of crony Capitalism, that usually benefit the most moneyed. Worse still they benefit the favored capitalists. That's the kind of crony capitalism passed on in the name of reforms and development by the Congress in its last term in office.

And while it is important that these initiatives be taken-up in earnestness and with urgency for the sake of general good, it must be ensured that the process ends up providing opportunities to the most number of entrepreneurs and that the most number of people benefit from it.

An estimated 95% of India's labor force works in the unorganised sector (are self employed). There are an estimated 45 million businesses in India. Essentially this is where India gets its resilience and growth from, when and where big capital and big businesses fail to deliver.

This must be the BJPs agenda. As a right wing party, it must ensure that government spending ends up benefiting the widest possible number of entrepreneurs and not the favored few.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Top 3 reasons for BJPs failure this election & what can be done about it

There has been a lot of micro analysis of the election results. Surely there are many factors at play that are responsible for the results the way they turned out to be.

But if only for the sake of putting emphasis let me select the top 3 reasons I think that were responsible for BJP's unsuccessful bid for power and what can be done about it. 

1. Spread - I think that the primary reason for BJP not making it was the lack of spread. Just by the factor of shear chance and probability BJP would have found it difficult to score high enough (about 80%) in the limited region it contested to be successful. Therefore, item number one would be to expand in AP, TN, WB, Kerala and to regain significance in Orrisa and UP. Needless to say it must recover the lost ground in Delhi, Uttarakhand and Rajasthan.

2. Constancy - The Second most important reason I think was that the superb work done on creating the IT vision, Infrastructure vision, Social schemes (Ladli Ladki etc.), the Manifesto etc. never reached the people especially with the media not obliging to do the work for BJP. Perhaps the vision documents were too late in coming for the messages to spread. So these documents and messages must continue to be used as the guiding documents for all communication with the people in all up coming elections (at the city, state and national level) between now and 2014, in order to carry the message deep and wide.

3. Refinement - Unlike the popular view that BJP should abandon its position for a milder agenda, I think it is the refinement of the agenda and related messaging that is more important. All the messages and documents used during the elections must be kept open for debate and suggestions on the party websites to enable continuous refinement & improvement.

Monday, May 25, 2009

BJP lost but India still gained

Every one's talking about BJPs loss in the election and how they should have been more palatable to the general public.  But BJP's loss in elections, if at all due to very strident posturing, has still resulted in gains for India e.g.

-It has forced the government to abandon its slackness in dealing with terrorism and internal security matter. If only to not let the BJP gain the upper hand in the elections.

-The Citizen ID card has been brought out of the deep freezer and we might see some movement on it.

-The government seems now to be more mindful of its non-performance on the infrastructure front (especially the slow progress on the roads projects).

-Tainted ministers seem to have been kept out this time

-Third front stands discredited and there seems to be movement towards bipolar polity

-It has put the focus on pursuit of black money and so on.

Yes the power is still in the hands of same bunch of non-performers, but we might be underestimating the importance of an opposition in shaping the agenda for the country.

Winning elections is about being popular. That doesn’t necessarily go with standing for what is right.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Interenet and elections in the 2010s

It may have had little impact on the on the elections this year but Advani's site represented a new and unique experiment in engaging with the voters.

Internet as a medium is likely to have a big impact on the politics of the country in the next 5-10 years just as the coming of cable TV had in the early 90's.

After doing commendable work in 90s the television medium looks both jaded and biased.

The television has limited interactivity and (worse still) it is opinionated. More likely than not, the television will be stuck to the drawing room while the internet will roam free on web enabled devices and phones.

The web may not be much as a means to make an impression on the general public than as a tool to bring the like minded people together.

Now that can be a very powerful tool for any kind of collective pursuit.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Perception over substance

It seems to me that Perceptions have won over Substance. Very little of substantive issues were debated during the course of the election, both in the media and by the parties. All the fight was to create perceptions - good guys versus the bad guys, strong guys versus the weak guys and so on.  In which it was perhaps the Congress which had the upper hand. Though, that might not be the sole reason for BJPs loss. 

The BJP was never really in the running because of its near zero presence (with or without allies) in over 180 seats and marginal presence in another 100. Take the allies off in the rest of the seats and what we have is BJP effectively fighting about 200 seats -implying, that it would have needed a strike rate of over 80% to even reach 160 seas on its own. Now that was always very improbable.

You could say the Congress has been lucky the second time round with many things falling in its favour. But the geographical spread probably was the main reason.

That brings us back to where we started. It’s probably the inability to manage perceptions that has limited the geographical extend of the BJP’s influence to start with.