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Nurturing Leadership

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Rahul Gandhi continued with his ‘foot in the mouth’ crusade in Kerala when he derided North Indians in the effort to suck up to the local people. He had done the same earlier in Assam. He is naturally facing flak and his lieutenants in the Congress are finding it hard to offer a defence. This is in the same vein as Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s rants against ‘outsiders’ and Gujaratis. The desperate landowners of Punjab, Haryana and Western UP agitating on the farm laws are also not averse to mixing with anti-national and extremist elements. Quite obviously these are desperate attempts to arouse parochial feelings in the hope of countering the BJP’s bid to take what is left with the opposition.
There is no doubt that the popular narrative, these days, has become extremely polarised. As such, followers and apologists of one or the other side are unable to see and admit the mistakes that are being made. Of course, the most ordinary people silently watch the drama and, hopefully, will decide on the merits when it is time to cast their votes. Ideally, election results should give political parties indications on what finds support and what not. As such, these should be interpreted on the basis of parties’ ideologies and future policy crafted accordingly. Very few among the opposition seem to be doing that, revealing how little quality leadership exists in their ranks.
One reason for the failures is the urge among leaders to monopolise power within parties and turn them into family proprietorships. Ideology and service of the people end up taking a backseat. This pattern of behaviour needs to be discouraged and one way of doing so could be by ensuring every registered political party conforms to laid down rules on internal democratic functioning. Otherwise they would be barred from contesting elections.
The argument that certain charismatic leaders bring in the votes should be countered by making voters more aware of the real issues. The numerous NGOs that claim to be working for greater democracy should focus on providing relevant information to voters so that leaders are elected for the right reasons. There should be robust democratic functioning in grassroots institutions such as panchayats and municipal boards. The media should pay greater attention to goings on there so that up and coming leaders acquire greater visibility and, in the future, challenge the established stars. Otherwise, the people will rue the day they committed themselves to individuals and families, just as the people of Amethi must be feeling now.