Searching for a great leader
History does not judge one’s greatness by the quantum of their command or decibel levels but rather by the quantum of genuine concern for their people
It is a real privilege for anyone to live in the generation of a great leader. While taking the oath of office, the new CM of Andhra Pradesh stated that he would work in such a way that every household would fondly keep his photograph, implying that he wants to be a truly great leader. At the national level, we already have a serious aspirant, Modi — with his bombastic rhetoric and bombarding actions. Trump even called him 'Father of India,' implicitly suggesting that we should forget our 'Father of the nation.' However, we only have to wait and see, since history has sent many such aspirants into oblivion.
History does not judge one's greatness by the quantum of his command or decibel levels, but rather by the quantum of genuine concern for his people; goodwill and love s/he earns. It is not a privilege one can aspire for; it is one's work and honest admission of mistakes, and the sacrifices one makes in standing by genuine values and ideas, that are the determinants. Lord Ram is a role model for his truthfulness, and Ram raj is often remembered for its welfare of people. Buddha and Christ stood for rationality and peace in society and Prophet for brotherhood. Ashoka the Great changed to preaching values of Buddhism after all his bloody conquests. Din-i llahi is a testimony of Akbar's thoughts of equality of religions. Mahatma Gandhi is our icon for non-violence and truthfulness. The iron man of India, Sardar Patel, is admired for his integrity and administrative acumen. Nehru was a visionary, notwithstanding Pragya, who is facing criminal charges of terrorism, calling him a criminal and Godse a God.
Similarly, George Washington called slavery morally and economically deplorable. Abraham Lincoln abolished it; his words, 'government of the people, by the people, for the people,' still reverberate across the world. The world remembers Roosevelt for his message, 'The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.' Martin Luther King Jr., through his fight for civil rights, enlightened the world about how all men are created equal, irrespective of their race. Nelson Mandela spent his life fighting against apartheid.
Napoleon rightly said, 'Great ambition is the passion of a great character. Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts. All depends on the principles which direct them.' Thus, all those only seeking power and glory pass into oblivion, although there are some, like Ravan, Hitler, Mussolini, Idi Amin, etc., who are remembered for their deeds of discrimination, evil, and arrogance.
Unlike his arrogant predecessor Naidu, a ready smile, austerity, shunning grandeur, equal treatment of all, till now mark Jagan. Even his cabinet formation was based on a prudent formula to represent all cross-sections of people. While seriously working on implementing his election manifesto, he reiterates every day about his commitment for a corruption-free state, and adherence to values, in order to usher in a new era of development. However, can he erase his past — his political legacy of bomb-culture and corruption, and the score of criminal charges he is facing, unless he honestly and truthfully admits them to become a great leader?
A great leader is a rarity. With all the power inherited, Indira Gandhi turned out to be a mere power-seeking fascist. A tall leader, Jayalalithaa, continued to lead Tamil Nadu in spells until she died, without going to jail as a convict for her corruption. Recently, people paid accolades to the suave three-term CM of Delhi, Sheela Dikshit, when she passed away, for her contribution to the development of Delhi through flyovers, Metro, etc. However, no one mentioned that her shrewd tactics did not allow her corruption to surface until AAP swept her out of power and got cases registered against her in matters of Common Wealth Games, Delhi Jal Board, etc., which took away the sheen of her greatness. Sushma Swaraj, who was known for her oratory, humility, and helpfulness, was at the same time a patron and protector, as the god-mother, for the powerful Gali brothers of Karnataka, who are notorious for their corrupt practices, which drops her down by many notches in her public image. As a leader of the backward castes, Mayawati even has ambitions to become the PM, although she faces corruption charges in the Taj Corridor case, etc. Only Mamata Banerjee, with her simple life style and honesty, is an exception. But, her impulsive nature and her nephew are her nemeses. So much for our female leaders!
The roles of middlemen sharply dented the images of most of the tall leaders. Rajiv Gandhi had blessed the middleman Ottavio Quattrocchi in the Rs 64 crore Bofors deal. In spite of the great contribution of PV Narasimha Rao along with Manmohan Singh in liberalising our economy, the Rs 133-crore Urea scam smeared his reputation, as his son and officials colluded with the Turkish fly-by-night operator to sideline the Minerals and Metals Trading Corporation. Lalu Yadav, a champion of the backward castes and the CM of Bihar for years, who amassed wealth for generations, too patronised middlemen in the Rs 945-crore Animal Husbandry Fodder Scam.
Then, CBI cases against Mulayam Singh Yadav, another leader of backward classes, for his illegal wealth do not make him great. The Rs 3,500-crore Aircel-Maxis case, the INX media case, etc., show the true colours of the elite-looking Chidambaram. Of late, we also have the folks of the likes of Sujana Chowdary, facing charges of defrauding banks for thousands of crore, who have become saints only after hopping to the BJP. Although Yedyurappa has managed to become CM again, his corruption stories are well-known. The list is long. In Indian politics, they are all tall and powerful leaders but certainly not great leaders. Then, like Indira Gandhi, we have another very powerful leader, Modi.
Although he is a very tall leader and his actions, like in Kashmir, are very bold initiatives, his negatives stunt his built-up image. He is unlike Vajpayee, who was not powerful, yet, was great in several traits and contributions, and he carried dissenting people with him; did not allow arrogance to overwhelm him. Based on falsities, Modi had created several illusions to come to power and fulfilled none of them. Much-touted Gujarat model proved to be a farce since the Human Development Index was the poorest in this state; crony capitalists were the beneficiaries. There is no generation of millions of jobs; there was only a loss of jobs and livelihood in millions; there is great distress in the economy. Surveys indicate wealth reaching only a few hands, while 60 per cent reel under poverty. He gloats about his love for the environment and even gets Global Goalkeeper Award, but India is 177 out of 180 countries in the Global Environment Performance Index; it is also among the lowest in achieving sustainable development goals and is among the unhappiest countries. While there are several such pressing issues, communalism has sunk India into medieval times, and killing of people in encounters and mob-lunching, particularly of Muslims and Dalits, has only become common as if a purging operation is on. Institutions have been snatched of their freedom to function independently. He assured to free the country of corruption, but till date, no tangible efforts have been made, except targeting Opposition. Investigations against business leaders like Mukhesh Ambani, involved in corruption and frauds of thousands of crores get thwarted, implying the power of crony capitalists. The insolvent of 45,000 crore rupees, Anil Ambani, has been made the off-set partner in the Rafale deal, by sidelining HAL. Corrupt people are saints as long as they support the BJP. He promised to bring back black-money stacked abroad and stop its generation. Yet, thanks to demonetisation, more black money has been generated; Yediyurappa gave Rs 1,700 crore to his party. Rs 27,000 crore were spent during elections; political defections are engineered, the sources are never known. Now there is ambivalence about NRC and CAA triggering protests across the country. Like Trump, he is feared, not admired. He says 'all is well' at 'Howdy Modi' to draw global attention. However, with his untruths, lack of sympathy for human misery; his arrogance and reluctance to honestly admit his mistakes, etc., come in the way of clubbing his name with greats like Lord Ram, Mahatma Gandhi and others, although he aspires so, as his Independence Day speech reveals. On the other hand, it is a matter of conjecture whether his name fits in the group of powerful men – Ravan, Hitler, etc.
At the same time, there are a few, like Manik Sarkar in Tripura, A K Anthony, Nirmala Sitharaman, who are a rare breed with impeccable integrity. But, their political domains are too small for consideration.
We still have two names in the reckoning — Manmohan Singh and Kejriwal, who are known for their honesty; have come up without having any political legacy. We have to wait and see whether history would bestow greatness on Manmohan Singh for all his silent contributions to the nation or not. In spite of all the politically-motivated hurdles encountered, Kejriwal has made innovative contributions in several fields in Delhi, which are being emulated elsewhere. However, his serious reckoning would be only if he gets elected again, since, with the philosophy and agenda of AAP of no-corruption, non-communal, work-for-the-last-man-in-the-queue, it would be perceived as the only national alternative to the BJP, as hoped by the country after the Anna Movement. Or would it be someone else?
Dr N Dilip Kumar is a retired IPS officer and a former Member of Public Grievances Commission, Delhi. Views expressed are strictly personal