Opinion

An Army is as good as its soldiers – PM as good his team

Prime Minister of the world’s sixth largest nation by the economy, second largest by population, and second largest by the strength of the army is no mean feat. 275 seats in the Lok Sabha, at the helm of 14 states, and in coalition in 5 States, there is little to gainsay the power the PM currently wields, both inside and outside the nation. With such a massive mandate from Indians, neat representation across Assemblies, and the administrative experience that the PM is associated with, there is so much ground that could have been covered in multiple dimensions. With almost every conventional variable that has proven to be an impediment to governance being conspicuous by its absence, one is forced to revisit the past forty-five months purely for diagnosis. It all started in May 2014, when an extremely determined, focussed, tenacious, nationalist leader assumed the Prime Minister’s Chair. He was known to be a no-nonsense, disciplinarian who did not think twice about changing rules of the game, all for the sake of larger good. Clearly, the nation was charmed by his intent and will. However, both the PM and us, the common citizens missed the obvious; he cannot run the nation by himself. For his vision of New India to be pollinated across the diverse social and geographical lines of India, a team of efficient leaders whose vision and determination was mapped to his, was imperative at the Centre and as well as State. Unfortunately, he is left wanting, not just at the legislative but at the organization level too.

Lack Individual Base

The Prime Minister is frequently charged with perpetually being in campaign mode. It is a fair criticism, for he does invest far too much time and energy in managing State elections, than his predecessors. I am not sure, what other choices he has? He has an army of ghost leaders at the State and Centre, who lack both, individual power base and administrative credibility. Extremely low level of experience in the party’s representation – 164 members of Lok Sabha are serving their first-term.

  • Agreeably, UP’s Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath has won five consecutive Lok Sabha elections from Gorakhpur. But, did he resonate with the electorate across the State? Could the BJP have won under the leadership of Yogi Adityanath or is it true that had BJP declared him as the CM face, they wouldn’t have been able to seize the elections with such aplomb?
  • For the PM’s home turf i.e. Gujarat State elections, BJP deployed a team of 10 Union Ministers, four sitting Chief Ministers, three former Chief Ministers, two Members of Parliament and a BJP state chief. Even then, the Prime Minister had to conduct 34 rallies and address the voters till his actual throat gave away because most of these A-List star campaigners including likes of JP Nadda, Raman Singh, Yogi Adityanath, Shivraj Singh Chouhan had little to do or give to Gujarat in their campaigns.

For a politician who is still on the growth curve, it is intelligent to have weak local leaders, who have a magnifying impact on their leadership. However, for a globally endorsed leader, a weak team not only is a cause of periodic embarrassment, it also reflects poorly on his ability to identify and groom leaders.

Fractured Agenda

While one is itching to indulge into instant whataboutery at the very mention of “agenda”, let us pause and attempt to differentiate between agenda and propaganda. The BJP has a valid political agenda, and we should refrain from policing that. Drill down deeper, its leaders have their own agenda, far cry from that of the party.

  • For example, one is not sure if ousting all Muslims from India is BJP’s agenda or Mr Vinay Katiyar’s, (three-time Lok Sabha MP, currently Rajya Sabha MP from UP) propaganda.
  • Rajasthan was embroiled in deep social unrest a few days back. The entire State was held ransom by the reprehensible actions of Karni Sena aptly dwarfing Raje’s leadership. The nation expected PM Modi to tell Ms Raje, “Raaj Dharm ka Paalan Karo”, much like what Bharat Ratna, Atal Bihari Vajpayee told the PM, then CM in 2002. We don’t know what the PM told Rajasthan CM; we know for sure, Karni Sena’s propaganda emerged stronger than BJP’s agenda.
  • PM Modi may come across as a strict disciplinarian, who leaves no room for dissent and an affable leader who keeps his team motivated. It took a State election to grievously break this myth. The internal power struggle was visible during the Himachal Pradesh Legislative Election. One of the reasons attributed to Prem Kumar Dhumal’s electoral defeat was factions at the local level.

I agree the PM’s term as a CM suffered from certain social wounds too; let us not forget 15 years back, BJP was yet to emerge as a pole in Indian polity. After 2014, the PM has maintained a stoic silence on flagrant issues, adhering to the political agenda of his party. It is rather regrettable a leader of his stature and dynamism has not been able to discipline the battery of rabble-rousers. Even the party’s performance on social media has been way off the PM’s idea of New India – we the people of India firmly believe that New India does not stand for hatred, fake news and indecent behaviour. The PM surely doesn’t approve of his men trolling deceased leaders or spreading propaganda. The question remains, why is the party hell bent on putting its tallest leader in a spot, time and again?

Fail to Deliver

For every team, there is a coach and a captain, both of whom have very different roles. It irks to observe that the PM juggles with both roles, due to the abject incompetency of CMs at the State. This dual role puts him in the line of fire, whether the issue is local or national. For every issue that the nation debates on, the buck inevitably stops at the PM – unfair but natural. People have been casting votes from National to Legislative to even municipal elections, due to the trust they pose in the PM, not on those who are actually meant to deliver. Subsequently, they look up to him for solutions, and not the respective administrators. For example, Gujarat has been devoid of stable leadership after it relented its CM to the Centre. Devendra Fadnavis has failed to deliver across the board, be it infrastructure, social harmony, corruption or farmer distress. Cut to Opposition, it demands answers from the PM; to the common man, he feels the PM did not do enough.

A leader is expected to provide the nation with leaders who are better than him. On one hand, there is a global acknowledgement, applaud and appreciation for the PM; on the other, he is unable to ensure his own fall in line. For a leader, it is inexorable to communicate his vision and ensure his team commits itself to the same. If the team refuses to comply with the Chieftain’s orders, it is the time the Chieftain revisits his leadership and his team.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NEWSD and NEWSD does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

Gunja Kapoor is a policy analyst based in New Delhi. She tweets at @gunjakapoor

Latest Update