ABP Blog : Aspiration, Ambition, and the hunger to win Elections

The results of the UP state elections are finally out – and verdict is  Adityanath, the 5 time member of parliament,  is the chief minister. The BJP choose the most person it considers most appropriate, and most in line with it’s vision,  to run India’s largest state. Adityanath has a reputation of being a ruthless leader, who does not even make a pretence of liking or respecting minorities, women, or anyone else who is remotely liberal. He has take on not just these groups, at times with violence, but also his party – going as far as putting up rebel candidates to ensure that the BJP loses.

But, this column is neither about Adityanath or about the BJP. It is about ambition, aspiration and power, and why organisations are geared , at different points of time, to attract people who meet organisational goals. Parties win (or lose) elections, not just because of the top leadership (and that is very important) but also because the organisation is filled with ambitious people who believe in the same goals, and want to achieve them. The opposition parties are failing there. The question is very simple, if you were ambitious, and not aligned with Hindutva as a political philosophy, would you be interested in working for a Mulayam Singh Yadav, or take orders from a Digvijay Singh, or follow a Stalin, or be guided by a Deepika or jytotsna or whoever (Jayalalitha’s niece and husband ), or work with Ajit Pawar. Why did Suresh Prabhu have to quit the Shiv Sena ? Can you imagine someone as intelligent and sincere as him, reporting to Aditya Thackeray. On what basis ? The problem is less Rahul or Akhilesh or Stalin. The problem is a vapid party base that accepts these as lord and master, without any qualms, and  obeisance to all orders. Unless the parties themselves choose to survive and thrive, you are looking at someone like Adityanath becoming PM in the future, simply because the opposition has folded into various family groups playing out their own version of Mahabharat. (remember at the end of the Mahabharat there were less than 10 survivors. ) . When things are served up to you on a platter, there is little hunger to succeed. And, i believe that the parties have forgotten that.


My column for ABP


In the aftermath of the results of the state elections, one thing is very apparent. The BJP doesn’t just have the leadership, but also the party machinery to win elections. Mr Modi and Mr Shah provide the air cover, leaders at the local level, mop up the rest. The organisation is ambitious, and sees its goals being realised by victory at the polls. The problem with the fragmented opposition, is while they talk about winning, the will to win seems lacking. The lustreless party machinery seems so happy walking on a treadmill that goes nowhere, that the parties are going nowhere.

Today, most parties – INC, DMK, AIADMK, SP, BSP, Shiv Sena, MNS, SAD are facing the same problem, a mass exodus of talent, because organisations, that were once mass based, have concentrated all the power and decision making in the hands of a few stakeholders, their families and close associates. Merit has little place, and decision making is dependent on the whims of those at the top. As such, there is no reason, why someone who is ambitious would want to join any of the parties that have gotten rejected at the polls.  From the outside, it seems like they have not just lost their way, and are meandering without either a purpose or a goal; and they don’t have the will to find either. Regional parties, and the Congress, are facing a crisis, not just because of those who lead them, but because the organisation itself doesn’t have enough people, hungry enough to succeed.  The Modi wave washed away other parties, because the parties have ceased to have a solid foundation of ambitious leaders at the constituency level.

One of the characteristics that separates humankind from the rest of our cousins in the animal kingdom, is aspiration and ambition. Aspiration is when we hope for a better tomorrow, and use all our talents and resources to achieve it. Most, if not all, of humanities technological advances – since the invention of the wheel – have been about making life better. On the other hand, ambition is when we not just hope to be better than ourselves, but better than others. The desire to wield power, to do better – to bring about change is what has brought about monumental political change across the millennia.  It is a combination of aspiration and ambition that makes the world progress.

When we join an organisation or start one, both personal aspiration and ambition drive us. What we look for, in an organisation, in addition to income, is a sense of shared values, belonging, and whether it lets us meet our aspirations and ambitions. There are many for whom the meeting of personal aspirations is enough.  But, that there are those for who professional ambition is important. And, they are usually who lead organisations in troubled time to victories over competitors, or reduce the extent of loss by their very energy and drive. For every organisation it is important to have a mix of the two. Too many people who look for only personal aspirations to be satisfied, and you will have an organisation that stagnates, and dies. Too many with professional ambition, and the organisation will be torn apart under the strain of the competing ambitions. But, the need for a few good ambitious leaders is necessary. And, organisations will only get a good flock of those with professional ambition, and drive, joining them, when the individuals see scope of rising within the organisation. And, for that the organisation must be a meritocracy.

This is where all political parties in India face a challenge. Families, and their loyal retainers, have taken over parties, permeating every aspect of the political machinery. Where talent and merit are secondary, then there will be an exodus of both out of the organisation. Where promotion is based on a court culture, you will have decay, and unless the party organisations take serious action, they are going to implode into insignificance. To have a chance at winning, Parties must allow ambitious youngsters to join them, and nurture them in their career to the top. This is what any organisation worth its’ salt does. Because they know that organisations can only grow and thrive, when there is fresh blood to inject it with new ideas, and new energy. And, this is exactly what the losing parties need to do. Allow talent to rise. Allow merit to be rewarded. In 2017, it cannot be about the whims of ruling families. It must be about the organisation.

Elections and the hunger to win

picture source : here

Election Silliness : Referendum on whether Pakistanis want to join India

It is election season, as it usually is the case in India.

Which means, we the people, are subject to full on rhetoric, revisionism, silliness, and of course, empty promises. And, this isn’t one party or the other. It is the whole blooming tribe (or as they would say in Hindi netaon ki jaati) that is trying to up the ante on being silly enough to make the headlines, get spoken up, rouse outrage, and then ride out the outrage, till the next outrage.  After all, as we all know, there is no such thing as bad publicity. Don’t believe me, search for articles on the Trump campaign. The more outrageous his statements, the firmer his base became.

Normally, i avoid the temptation to rant about election speeches. One expects them to be outlandish. I don’t even publicly laugh at acronyms; not because i am scared, i am not, but because it just helps make stuff like this the new norm. I have spent 20 years of my life dealing with management consultants of various shapes and forms – and acronyms,  are the norm. We laugh at work, we laugh in public life. And we move on. But, i digress. This isn’t about acronyms. But, this. This is just too much


Election rhetoric is quite one thing, and reality is quite another.

180 million people. many of whom loathe us, and want to destroy us.  Most of whom will not lift a finger to  help. They may like us as individuals, but not as India.  Parts of us may speak similar sounding languages. Parts of us may have common history. But, most of us don’t.

And, suggestions of a referendum, even as election rhetoric, is wrong. Think of all the soldiers who have died. Those who have been beheaded. Think of all the breach of promises. Think of 26/11. Think of the Bombay Blasts. Think of all the terror attacks. And, support of terror groups. And, think, if for 70 years Pakistan could have maintained hostilities against India, without the tacit support of the people.

Not that they are clamouring to join us, not that we have got a red carpet ready.

But, thoughts like these need to be countered, when they come up. Before they become the new normal.

Yes, he has the right to say what he wants. But, as Home Minister, he is also answerable to us, the people.

Seriously, there needs to be a Private Member’s bill that prevents the executive from campaigning for the 5 years that they are running the Government. Go do your work. Let the party campaign. Govern the nation, that is your job. not campaigning.



Mr.Modi and Pakistan – what next?

Three months after the Pathankot terror attack forced postponement of Foreign Secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan, Islamabad’s envoy Abdul Basit Thursday said the comprehensive bilateral dialogue process has been “suspended”. He also said “cooperation” is key to the investigation, and not “reciprocity” — putting in limbo the National Investigation Agency team’s visit to Pakistan. –

Today’s Indian Express.

The last Indian Prime Minister who understood Pakistan, and knew how to deal with their duplicitous Government, was Indira Gandhi. She was also the first Prime Minister who understood those. I am possibly going to get massively trolled for this statement, but her grasp of Pakistan, and its Government, came less from political acumen, and more from gender.

Women, know instinctively, about safety, and have an early warning alarm bell system, that possibly is an outcome of 50,000 years of evolutionary biology. The warning alarm bell screams – don’t trust, don’t let your guard down, get ready for (a) fight or flight. Most of us (women) face issues, when we chose to override our most primitive instincts, feel guilty about distrusting ‘such nice people’. As a professional, at a younger age, i used to over compensate for my warning bells, by being really nice to people, whom my instinct told me to avoid. I learnt my lessons the hard way. I have discussed this with multiple women, across socio economic groupings, and they have said that they have these almost physical responses to ‘danger’. It is a very personal response. And, it works the other way too – it tells you who you can trust.

Men look at war and peace very differently from women. The fight is a different fight. They fight for a greater ‘glory’. women fight so that they never have to fight again.

The problem with Indian foreign policy vis-a-vis Pakistan is not enough women call the shots.

This belief that Pakistan will do the right thing, and expending so much energy that we look like idiots every time, has to stop. How many times will India be stabbed in the back, before decision makers decide that we don’t have to be friends. We don’t even have to be friendly. There is nothing that they have that we need, except a whole bunch of criminals. And, they can keep those.

I used to believe that part of the Indian political system’s problem with Pakistan, was that there were too many people whose ancestors were from, what is today, Pakistan. I believed that having people outside the partitioned regions would make things better. Alas, that is not to be. There is still this romantic notion that our PM has, like PM’s before him, that shared history and culture, shared stories and food, will improve relations. It won’t.

I feel for the Pakistani people. They are stuck with a system that is hocked to the militants and the secret service. And, their only raison d’être seems to be lies, deceit, and making India bleed. And, they do it not just because some people like to see the world burn, but because it makes economic sense. The day there is peace (in the true sense of the word) between the two countries, the massive military  aid that flows into Pakistan from the USA, will dry up. That is a lot of money to lose.

Mr.Modi, has done more than what he should to bring about ‘normalcy’ with Pakistan. It is time he stopped, and focused attention elsewhere. It is less about him trying to trust, and more about them, who are not worthy of trust.

indo pak


Cows, Lynching, and Exclusion

three very different stories

The first, from the Times of India, is about a couple of cattle traders lynched by “suspected cattle-protection vigilantes

The deceased, Muhammad Majloom, 35, and Azad Khan alias Ibrahim, 15, were cattle traders and related to each other. Their bodies were strung up with their hands tried behind their backs and their mouths stuffed with cloth.
“The manner of their hanging showed that the assailants were led by extreme hatred,” said Latehar SP Anoop Birthary.

and the second is  from the Indian Express – about the Ministry of HRD’s directive

The National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language (NCPUL), which operates under the Ministry of Human Resource Development, has introduced a form which requires authors of books NCPUL acquires annually to declare that the content will not be against the government or the country.

And, just as a bonus, if these two stories don’t depress the hell out of you, read the interview of Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya in the Scroll

Bhattacharya: They asked me, “It’s understandable if Khalid is doing this, but what were you doing there?” Somehow it seemed that an unadulterated Khalid would have suited them better. My presence irked them. They couldn’t build up the story they wanted.

Khalid: I was targeted with a special hatred because of being a “Khalid”. But there was hatred for Anirban too. For simply being there and ruining a ready-made story. Now this didn’t fit their narrative, the narrative of terror they began in the media. If I was a traitor to the nation because of my Muslim identity, Anirban was a traitor to his nation, religion and caste.

A narrative is being built. And, that narrative is that of ‘who is a good indian’. That ‘good’ Indian lives by certain principles that are dear to a small, but vocal minority. And, that narrative is wrong. Because there are more than a billion ways of being a ‘good’ indian. The version put out of this non meat/beef eating, non urdu writing, non Muslim is not one of them. And even if the billion plus Indians, had the same view of what makes a ‘good’ indian, and one person does not abide by that view, it is still fine. that is the point of individual liberty.

We keep talking about majority rights and minority rights. Most of us will have a better life if the government was committed to protect individual rights.  citizenship rights. And the right to be ourselves.


There is a rather ugly genie out of the bottle, a genie built on exclusion, and suspicion. That genie either needs to be banished or put back in the bottle. Look at Pakistan, and see what we should not become. ever. People kept quiet trying to buy peace, there too. But, that does not work. You cannot buy peace from fundamentalists. They want it all, they are not going to let you your little space, where you can run your life without any interference from them.

India is built on diversity, and mutual tolerance. Each strand as vital as the other. I never thought i would quote Narendra Modi as defence for an argument, but he has said it well here

As a nation, we stood against colonialism and in our struggle for freedom At the dawn of independence some chose to go away; and, I believe, that it also had to do with the colonial politics of that time….  Now, India is moving forward on the strength of the struggles, the sacrifices, the bravery, the knowledge, the skill, the art and the pride of every member of every faith in our diverse and yet united nation.

Like the strings of sitar that each produces a note, but come together to create a beautiful melody.

This is the spirit of India. This is the strength of our nation.

All our people, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, Buddhists, the micro-minority of Parsis, believers, non-believers, are an integral part of India.


(image courtesy : here)

Is 28 too old for a Phd Student…

Some basic maths.
most Indians finish their 10th at the age of 16-17 ; their 12th at 18/19 (depending on which part of the year they were born)
They finish graduation at 21/22.
they finish their masters at 23/24
If they then enroll for a PhD – it can take between 3 and 7 years. That would make them 26/31 when they get their degree. I don’t know anyone who has finished their Phd in 3 years. I know people across the world, who after a decade or so, are yet to finish their Phds. 
And, post a Phd there is a post doctoral research – which makes you even older.
Also, if you come from rural, rurban India, add a year or two – sometimes lack of teachers, schools, floods etal increases the finishing your education by a year or two.
Also, if you take a gap year to work between your degree and your Masters, you may be older when you enroll for a PhD. And, sometimes, people do a second Masters’ before enrolling for a Phd. 
So, while i may understand one’s opposition to Kanhaiya’s views, i don’t understand the issue with  age. 28 and a Phd student is not a bad number. Had he been 35, i would have raised eyebrows (slightly). I know 35 year Phd students (who didn’t take a gap year, who haven’t got a second masters – who enrolled for their Phd straight after their masters, and are yet to finish)
Academia has traditionally been funded by Government – be it a Monarchy or a Republic. And, that means tax payers’ money. So have been art, music and science. So have been wars, and monuments to a regime’s greatness. So have been roads and schools, and hospitals.  None of us is consulted on what it is spent on. I am not sure we can selectively decide which of the Government’s schemes we fund.
So, i am just as cool with Kanhaiya’s Phd, as i am with some person doing their Phd in the links between ancient astrology and astrology. It is a given that i am going to pay for their curiosity/research/ future. It is also a given that there is probably no practical output from either thesis.