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

DNA Column : Three ways to reduce the casual culture of rape in India

An edited version of this appeared in today’s dna

Until a few weeks ago, most of us had a barely passing familiarity with Baduan in Uttar Pradesh.  Around 200 kms and less than a 4 hour drive from the national capital, Delhi – the area hit the headlines after a particularly brutal rape and murder of two teenaged girls.  It is an old story, told again with callous violence and viciousness. Two cousins – some accounts put them at 12 and 15, others at 14 and 15 – had to attend to nature’s call. They had no toilet in their house and they went into the fields to relieve themselves. They never returned home. Their bodies were found hanging, with their own dupattas, from a mango tree. They had been raped, strangled and strung up like the spoils from a shikaar. 2 young men from a neighbouring village, and two police officers are believed to be the culprits.

This is not the first rape in India, and it is unlikely to be the last.  A report by PRS Legislative in 2011, looked at the abysmal state of women’s safety in India. According to the report there were 23,582 rapes in India – almost 65 rapes on a daily basis and around 3 every hour. But, most experts believe that the number of rapes is underreported. There are a number of reasons for this – the starting point of which is the social stigma assigned to the victim of the rape, and the perception of her having lost her honour.  Rather than being seen as a survivor of a heinous crime, she is seen as the provoker of the crime. And, her gender is enough to stigmatise her for life. Different views are put forward – maybe she was dressed provocatively, maybe she led the boys on, maybe she had ‘loose’ morals, maybe she said no but meant yes. We have all heard these comments from people who should know better – politicians, policemen, ‘elders’ of the community and the like.

At the core of the debate on women’s safety lie 3 main issues. The first is the availability of safe spaces – sanitation within the house or rather the lack of it or street lighting or the lack of it, both indicate the lack of safe spaces. The second is the lack of spaces where the two sexes can meet socially on an equal footing – schools, colleges, employment, and social occasions. And the third problem is a age old problem of the distinctions in social hierarchies and the social acceptance of the rapist and the social boycott of the victim.

The one thing your realise when you travel the length and breadth of India – visiting small hamlets and villages, is the lack of sanitation. There are few public toilets that are usable, even on state or national highways. Those that do exist make you fear attack from scorpions and snakes, not to mention the fact that they have doors that don’t shut and windows that give your full view of the world, and the world a view of you –without any means of securing your privacy. Schools and colleges – public spaces where both genders congregate – show a similar problem.  Toilets, and the privacy to use them, are such an important facet of safety and we don’t discuss this problem enough. The norm is to use the world at large as a public toilet – apart from issues of health and hygiene that crop up – there is also the very grave issue of safety. The first thing to do is to address this. Young girls, even if they lived in the most secure state in the universe, should have the right to perform their bodily functions in relative privacy. This is factor that most of us, living in relative middle class comfort in cities, take for granted. Associated with this is the issue of darkness. Unless you have electricity our towns and villages are going to be in dark. And darkness encourages the breach of law.

Where boys and girls grow up together, studying together, sharing playtime – and understanding and respecting differences there tends to be a natural evolution of gender sensitisation. On the other hand when girls and boys are segregated and social intercourse is considered taboo, you have scenarios where stereotypes and older mindsets are perpetuated. The second important factor to help build a safer world for women is creation of spaces where they are not just considered to be equal, but also where their  individuality and personal preferences are respected.   The creation of these spaces needs to be backed by education not just of young boys and girls, but also their parents, teachers, elders in the community, and administration.  Police reforms and Judicial reforms would help, but unless society as a whole is in synch with the need for social reform that prevents young men from seeing young women as prey for the taking – no amount of police on the street or stringent punishment is going to help.

And lastly, there is a problem social hierarchies and what is considered acceptable behaviour. While caste is a factor as is class, there is a third problem, and that is the unwillingness of those who wield power to bring about change. Caste and class reform may take generations and women’s safety cannot be held in abeyance till that is achieved.  And, this is where the Indian State needs to step in. With the recent changes in law rape trials are speedier and more stringent. We have seen the effects of this in both the Nirbhaya and the Shakti Mills rape case – due process was followed and the guilty were punished. This needs to extend to the smallest hamlet in India. Women will be safer, if the system punished the guilty – without fear or favour of powerful local interests.  However,  as long as the guilty walk around with their heads held high and their chests puffed up with pride, and the victims cower in their houses in shame – nothing will change.

Excerpts – Annihilation of Caste 4

[tag]Dr.B.R.Ambedkar[/tag] in the Annihilation of Caste, 1935

The effect of caste on the ethics of the Hindus is simply deplorable. Caste has killed public spirit. Caste has destroyed the sense of public charity. Caste has made public opinion impossible. A Hindu's public is his caste. His responsibility is only to his caste. His loyalty is restricted only to his caste. Virtue has become caste-ridden and morality has become, caste-bound. There is no sympathy to the deserving. There is no appreciation of the meritorious. There is no charity to the needy. Suffering as such calls for no response. There is charity but it begins with the caste and ends with the caste. There is sympathy but not for men of other caste. 

The Indian Express, today :

In a chilling reminder of caste divisions that still run deep in rural Uttar Pradesh, an upper caste youth, pursuing a masters in social studies, has been arrested by the Mathura police for allegedly hurling a six-year-old Dalit girl into a pit of burning waste after she “trespassed into a Thakur area of Tarauli village. The child, Kamlesh, who sustained 50 per cent burns on Tuesday evening, is being treated at the Swarn Jayanti Samudaik Hospital in Mathura. Sunny Thakur, who is said to be in his early 20s and is the son of Ashok Thakur, has been charged under IPC Section 307 (attempt to murder) and under the SC/ST Act. He has been put behind bars.

Freedom gone bananas!

The ‘honourable’ minister for Haj (UP), Haji Yakub Qureshi, calls for the Danish cartoonists head with a reward of 51 crores, and the Government of UP – and the Central Government, does nothing. The Shiv Sena goes on rampage in Nalla Sopara – a suberb of greater Mumbai – and again apart from feeble apologies from the Sena – there is nothing to suggest that the Sena is going to pay for disrupting Civil Society. Somehow, the incitement to violence by politicians gets excused under the ‘freedom to express’ guaranteed by the Constitution. But, maybe it is time to throw the book at a few to ensrue that we all don’t end up sufferering for their irresponsibility. I know that there are those who disagree on the idea of responsibility being an integral part of a citizen’s behaviour. And the fact that responsibility as citizens also means a certain degree of self restraint. But, it is time to throw the book at those who behave irresponsibly. And hit them where it hurts – with the full might of the legal system against those who want to disrupt our lives and our basic and fundamental freedoms. I would really like to see the "honourable’ minister arrested, tried and sentanced for incitement to murder, and the SP fined like crazy for inflicting a person like this on the people of India. And I would like to see the goons in Shiv Sena being jailed and the party itself? fined out of their ample coffers for the? disruption to our civic lives. Maybe a few such ‘examples’ will make us a safer society