Millennium Post

Not bound to party

Ours is the largest democracy in the world. It is vibrant as well as tried and tested, as it emerged stronger while facing different challenges one after another during the last six decades.  The role of leaders in our democratic system is largely accepted as crucial and preachy. They preach in the way which suits them according to the current scenario. Their thoughts, actions and the so-called sermons keep on changing.

Despite all this, the country has seen sincere and sensitive leaders who were keen to bring positive and pro-people reforms in the best interest of the citizens at large. One may call such leaders as performers, though not each one of them may be called a mass leader.

The qualities of leadership and the art of feeling pulse of people are few parameters to determine whether any particular leader is a mass leader with charismatic mass appeal or not. Many leaders have got acceptance and left an impact across party lines. In fact, such leaders have wider acceptance and their stature became taller than those who are considered tall in their parties. Their aura attracted others towards them and their ideologies. It is naive to say that all mass leaders are gifted with such wider acceptance.

In the present context, the presidential candidate Pranab Mukherjee has magnificently exhibited his ability to assert his influence beyond party lines. Immediately after he was chosen as the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) presidential candidate, many parties which are not part of the UPA decided to support him.

However, this is a fact that Mukherjee is not a mass leader, though he was in commanding position to influence parties in the opposition. He once walked away from his parent political party to float a separate political outfit. This venture left no impact and he returned to the Congress to gradually become all important in the government and the party.

Our former prime minister Indira Gandhi, the tallest leader of her times in the world, had mass appeal as an influential leader. She possessed many unique qualities and was instrumental in bringing reforms and taking historic decisions, like bank nationalisation and discontinuation of privy purses. Her personality was astonishing. She was termed by most as the Iron Lady.

She was also a leader with the quality of having a wider acceptance cutting across party lines. It is difficult to forget rousing victory of our brave army in the Bangladesh War when the Pakistani army was forced to surrender in the then East Pakistan. Her most vocal opponent and leader of the major opposition party then – the Bharatiya Jansangh – Atal Bihari Vajpayee, while speaking in Parliament, addressed Indiraji as Godess Durga, without taking into consideration any possible loss to his party.

Gandhi was also considered in high esteem by the leaders of opposition parties across the country. Her cabinet colleague and one who deserted her after she made an announcement to lift Emergency in 1977, Babu Jagjivan Ram, was also a mass leader, having appeal in all parts of the country despite being a representative of a constituency in economically backward Bihar. This is also acknowledged by all political analysts that Babujee also had wider acceptance.

Another former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who is not keeping well these days, used to have mass appeal, being the only tallest opposition stalwart with a long career of five decades in Parliament. He also had acceptance across parties.

There were many apolitical leaders like Jayaprakash Narayan, Acharya Vinoba Bhave and others who had wider acceptance in the country, though it is hard to identify any other political leader with wider acceptance which we are now debating in length. However, Mahatma Gandhi, despite being an active motivator of the Congress and our Independence movement, was the most influential leader with mass appeal and wider acceptance.  

There are other leaders who are on way to acquire wider acceptance. While looking at the present political scenario in Delhi, one may feel that Sheila Dikshit is regarded as a mass leader with wider acceptance, despite political differences with other leaders. The major opposition party is being blamed occasionally for being soft on her. But, her courteous attitude, compassion and heart-winning behavior has been able to win her many sympathisers in other parties.

Sat Pal is a communication consultant and has worked with several central and state ministers.
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