Millennium Post

Considering good leadership

It is absolutely true that well-meaning leaders do not lead masses in arson and violence, but depending on where this wisdom springs from, the politically conscious may find themselves disconcerted. Set to retire from office in less than a week, Army Chief Bipin Rawat drew flak from the opposition for voicing his opinion on the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act and landed himself in the mucky area surrounding the debate pertaining to it. To the General's credit, this is the first time he made a statement against the nation-wide protest against the new citizenship law while addressing an event in the national capital. Saying that "Leadership is all about leading. When you move forward, everybody follows... But leaders are those who lead people in the right direction. Leaders are not those people who lead people in inappropriate directions, as we are witnessing in a large number of university and college students, the way they are leading masses of crowds to carry out arson and violence in our cities and towns. This is not leadership...A leader is one person who leads you in the correct direction. Gives you the right advice and then ensures that you care for the people you live". Although not officially stated, this analogy to explain good leadership is controversial only for its sensitive timing. Student protests and them leading and influencing the masses is not uncommon, just the scale of it this time has been of a much greater magnitude to invite comments and opinions from myriad sources. With respect to the persisting protests, it is a distinct matter of consideration in terms of the phenomena of protests and the relevance of that in a true and healthy democracy; but given that the otherwise harmless comment on the matter comes from a position of more responsibility than power, some reprimand is not unwarranted. Tipped to be India's first Chief of Defence Staff who will be the single-point military adviser to the government on matters pertaining to all the three services, Navy, Army and Air Force, this is not the first time that the Army Chief has faced allegations of not remaining politically neutral in his three-year tenure. The necessity of an apolitical army and the sensitivity of the position in a democracy cannot be overstated for some very practical reasons. The act of terror against the Indian state in February this year that claimed the lives of at least forty CRPF personnel marked an unfortunate phase in its aftermath when vehement hatred for Pakistan was stoked and war-mongering became the prevailing form of nationalism. That was a time when defence, the army and grave security matters turned into a weapon of political misuse with the aim of extracting maximum electoral gain for the general election that happened three months later. A neural army is an asset and a national heritage that will hold the nation secure irrespective of the government and irrespective of the political status within the territory. It is for this reason that the army must not be one to take sides in any manner what so ever. The perils of a political army is a very difficult situation for a civil government and our western neighbour is the most suitable example to instill it deep in the collective Indian psyche that the army ought to have no place in civil matters of the government. Pakistan is largely a failed state with its military dictating terms on its civilian government and framing and directing policies with interests that primarily suit the military's agenda. Naturally, the common people of Pakistan bear the brunt of such a method of running a state.

As far as the matter of nation-wide protests goes, the new citizenship law has been legislated in a most democratic manner: the elected representatives of the people of India made a law they think is suitable for all. Debating about the relevance of such an irony of democracy is a different matter altogether. In the mean time, protests serve to highlight the pitfalls of a seemingly perfect democratic procedure. As demonstrations turn violent and lives claimed in the process, the situation of law and order needs urgent addressing. The lofty ideas of good leadership should not remain confined to local masses; it must also refer to the highest decision-makers of the country. The military is an institution that performs and delivers on the basis of prompt and effective decision-making. All those associated with this institution also look up to its leadership, not just with respect to speaking and addressing the public in general but also with respect to conduct. Military leaders have an added responsibility of proactively keeping away from political matter, good or bad. Certainly, true leaders do not lead masses in arson and violence but if that be the situation, good leadership can lead the masses away from such unfavourable scenes.

(image from jagran josh)

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