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Leaders With Small Minds: LOOKING FOR GIANTS AMONG PYGMIES, By Poonam I Kaushish; New Delhi, 14 July Print E-mail


New Delhi, 14 July 2007


Leaders With Small Minds


By Poonam I Kaushish


Kudos galore to Kalam, our outgoing President for his courage and commitment to India’s well being. For speaking out loud and clear his apolitical and brutally honest observations on our polity. An insider’s view about our top leaders across the board with whom he has inter-acted closely over the last five years of his Presidency. Speaking at the launch of computerization of courts last week in New Delhi, he lashed out at India’s “decision makers with small minds” and deeply grieved over the “shortage of leadership with nobility.” Candidly, the first citizen of our country not only underscored the popular perception of our polity among the people but also gave it the Presidential seal of approval!


Mercifully, his speech was not wholly a distressing dirge. At the same time, Kalam paid glowing tribute to the judiciary in the presence of the Chief Justice of India and the Union Law Minister and asserted: “Our Society is going through a unique dynamics due to the shortage of leadership with nobility. The only hope the nation cherishes and looks to is the judiciary with its excellence and impeccable integrity. We should do everything to make the judicial system succeed. It is said that a nation fails not because of economic progress but because of an increase in decision makers with small minds.”


How have our netagan reacted to this bombshell from the Rashtrapati? Tragically, their response has only confirmed Kalam’s charge of decision makers with small minds and leaders lacking nobility. Instead of sitting up and taking note of the President’s anguish, a majority of our leaders have chosen to completely ignore his torment. Not a few have passed snide comments that the Rashtrapati’s words were a classic case of sour grapes for being denied a second term. Others have rested their case on having to pay the price for getting an ‘outsider’ as the President. Notwithstanding the fact, that it is this ‘outsider’ who has restored glory to the Presidency, endeared himself to the masses and converted the Rashtrapati Bhavan into the People’s Bhavan.


True, it can be argued that we have grown accustomed to a petty self-serving polity, which thinks only of me, mine and myself. Of a political landscape dotted with politico-criminals in their “bullet-proof jackets” ---- MPs and MLAs tag replete with scams and scandals unlimited. Of tainted ministers who continue in office without any sense of shame, of our Right Honourables who have merrily converted offices of public services into private profit and justify their wrongs as in public interest. Failing to realize the disconnect between the jan sevak and the janata.


However, this time round what greatly troubles one is that these ‘small minds’ have willy nilly succeeded in denigrating and destroying the sanctity of the bastion of our parliamentary democracy: the President’s office. The on-going shenanigans over the messy selection and election of Kalam’s successor, ignoring established procedures and precedents, are proof enough. Replete as it is with petty games of conmanship and one-upmamship, charges and counter-charges of corruption, court cases, SMS, websites et al played out on the political chessboard.


Brushing aside the people’s clamour for ‘apolitical’ Kalam, the Congress-led UPA is all set to foist Rajasthan Governor Pratibha Patil, its sixth choice, in Rashtrapati Bhavan. Her USP? Unwavering loyalty to the Nehru dynasty and 10 Janpath. Worse, the poll is characterized by an unprincipalled democracy of concessions and political quid pro quo. We pick the President and you select the Vice-President, coos Sonia Gandhi to her Left comrades. Not to be outdone, the BJP-led NDA is desperately trying to work out its own quid pro quo with the 9-party UNPA on Bhairon Singh Shekhawat. Is the Presidential office sabzi-bhaaji that one buys off the rehriwala on the streets?


Sadly, if only our people had heeded Mahatma Gandhi’s first warning of our polity going awry. Durga Das records in his seminal memoirs, India from Curzon to Nehru and After: “Gandhi was deeply concerned about the rot that set into the Congress Party following Independence. He had received information that some Congress legislators were taking money from businessmen to get them licences, that they were indulging in black-marketing and subverting the judiciary and intimidating top officials to secure transfers and promotions for their protégés in the administration.” He, thereupon, proposed that all Congress candidates for Parliament and the provincial legislatures be screened and certified for integrity and selfless spirit of service by a Committee of leading freedom fighters of absolute probity.


Regrettably, his proposal was not accepted. “Gandhi thereupon felt more isolated than ever from the men who claimed to follow him and practice his precepts. He felt like one exploited by his comrades for their political ends and therefore hit on another revolutionary plan. The Congress must dissolve and a Lok Seva Sangh (Servants of the People Society) take its place. He drew up a constitution for the Sangh and decided to place it before the Congress overlords. But the assassin’s bullet ended Gandhi’s life with two tasks to which he had dedicated himself remaining unfinished. He could neither restore peace and goodwill between India and Pakistan nor could he purge Indian politics of its corrupting influences.”


Most unfortunately, the decline accelerated during the latter half of Nehru’s rule. Sharp differences arose between Nehru and Rajendra Prasad over the powers of the President and his freedom to speak up for the country and its people. (More about this another day) Rajen Babu, as he was popularly called, was crystal clear that the President would have justification for public expressions of presidential disapproval in case a Ministry was mismanaging the affairs. Leading Rajen Babu to meaningfully remind Nehru and his Ministers time and again of the old Sanskrit saying: Yatha Raja tatha Praja. But the leadership was not willing to mend its ways. Instead, it added to the rot without any qualms. There was no Gandhi to whom Nehru and others were answerable.


In fact, President Radhakrishanan went by Rajen Babu’s view and eloquently spotlighted the serious decline in public standards of morality, honesty and integrity and warned of the pitfalls ahead. Addressing the nation on the eve of the Republic Day in 1967 (which Congressmen described as a parting kick) he said: “The feeling should not be encouraged that no change can be brought about, except by violent disorders. We make the prospect of revolution inescapable by acquiescing in such conduct. As dishonesty creeps into every side of public life, we should beware and bring about suitable alternations in our life.”


It has been a steady downhill thereafter. The Mahatma had a genius for building great leaders. In sharp contrast, Nehru believed in lopping off the tall poppies, as reflected in the infamous Kamraj Plan. Nehru’s daughter Indira, who lacked grassroots experience and support, not only followed in her father’s footsteps but went a step further. She chose to control the Congress from New Delhi by converting it into an organization of ‘yes men’ who owed loyalty only to her and her alone. The sole criteria being sycophancy. Thus small and petty leaders were handpicked by her and propelled on to the centrestage. Her son Rajiv carried the family banner forward and now daughter-in-law Sonia has perfected sycophancy and loyalty into Brand Congress.


India today once again stands at the crossroads of destiny. The time has come for its masses and, more especially, its silent majority to think beyond the country’s petty power-at-all-cost polity, throw out the scoundrels and look at the perilous implications for the unity, integrity and the future of the country. A people, no doubt, get the leaders and the Government they deserve. But, at the end of the day, are we going to mortgage our conscience to ‘small minds’? Are we going to allow leaders without nobility to recklessly play havoc with India’s future?  The moot point: How long are we going to continue to look for giants among the pygmies and allow the later to ride-roughshod over us? Time to stand up and be counted. Time also for another Gandhi! ---- INFA

(Copyright India News and Feature Alliance)    

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