Those who don’t learn the lessons of history are condemned to repeat the same mistakes. I see a striking resemblance in the behaviour and attitude of some of our current crop of leaders, with those of the past. Hence my apprehension that they may be falling in to the same trap, or making the same mistakes of those with whom they seem to share that striking resemblance.
In the last century we had dictators like Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Mao and Salazar. All of them had simplistic solutions to complex issues and chose to strike at the “enemies” of the State or society. These dictators fell from grace and are today remembered more for their foolish decisions, rather than their leadership qualities or other accomplishments.
At present I find four world leaders
who seem to have similar “simplistic” solutions. We have Rodrigo Duterte,
President of the
But Namo and his ilk cannot learn the lessons of history, because they are busy re-writing Indian history; be it the cow, aerospace engineering, plastic surgery, the Mughal “traitors” and even the role of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel in the freedom movement. They are strangely silent on the role of the British. Anybody thought about that?
Namo and his National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval, believed that they would strike at the root of Kashmiri unrest with pellet guns, then by tying an innocent voter on to the bonnet of an army jeep. For three years they obstinately refused to dialogue with the stone pelters. Rather late in the day some realization has dawned and an interlocutor has been appointed. Is this a case of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted? It could now cause a nightmare (pun intended).
Another attempted strike has been against open defecation. Again a good idea that could go wrong. In my hometown municipal authorities are doing the rounds of slums early in the morning and beating drums or bugling to embarrass those with their pants down (pun again intended). Most of them are poor slum dwellers, including women and children. I find this inhuman. We need to ask ourselves why there are slums? Why is there migration from rural areas? Why have municipal toilets been converted into living accommodation for municipal workers? How many public toilets do we have, especially for women, in proportion to the population?
Even if toilets are being constructed, where is the water to flush them, the sewage system, and sewage treatment plants? Where are the sanitation workers to clean other peoples’ crap? This last is a valid point raised by Magsaysay Awardee B. Wilson of the Safai Karmachari Sangh. Namo seems to strike at the symptom rather than the disease. He is yet to learn a holistic approach to good governance.
Namo has another target to strike at – a Congress mukht Bharat. To attain that end he seems to justify all means – poaching legislators, breaking legislatures, and threatening others with tax raids. If the Congress wants to dig its own grave so be it. But the goal of a striking leader should be to build the nation, not to destroy the opposition by means fair or foul.
Instead of deriding the Congress and questioning ad nauseum what they did in the last 70 years, he needs to take a good hard look at the leaders that went before him – both their achievements and their blunders.
Colossi of the freedom movement like
Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and B. R. Ambedkar were all decisive in their
own ways. Gandhiji brought us Swaraj, Nehru a vision of modern
Nehru’s daughter, “goongi gudiya”
Indira Gandhi proved to be even more decisive – whether it was the
nationalisation of banks, abolition of Privy Purses, Urban Land Ceiling or the
liberation of Bangladesh. By no stretch of the imagination can Namo claim to be
the first “striking leader” of
Talking of strikers we could also learn some lessons from sport. About 55 years ago when I was representing my school in hockey and football, I always played as left winger (was that a harbinger of my subsequent social proclivity?). Back then, in a team of eleven we had five forwards, three half backs, two full backs and one goalkeeper. Today the formations have changed. Usually there is only one striker, four midfielders, four defenders and then the goalkeeper. The striker can do nothing on his own. He needs team work. Namo seems to lack that. For five months he did not have a full time Defence Minister. For several months there was no Environment Minister. In his recent cabinet expansion he leaned heavily on ex-bureaucrats, prompting political commentators to quip that his team lacked bench strength, again a term borrowed from sports parlance.
All leaders are prone to error. Nehru
faced the ignominy of the Himalayan Blunder against
Her son Rajiv did not learn from his
mother’s mistakes. First he trained the LTTE cadres at the Chakrata army base
near Dehradun. Then he sent the IPKF against them in
This surgical strike with my pen is not meant to strike down anybody. It is only hoped that those who read this will learn the lessons of history and avoid those pitfalls. Let us remember that a common man makes mistakes, a wise man learns from other peoples’ mistakes, and a fool never learns. Let us all be a part of that learning process. Let us not be struck down by lightning, but rather be enlightened citizens. Jai Hind!
* The writer
is the Convenor of the
(Published on 30th October 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 44)