It’s no secret that the Indian middle classes are mostly apathetic to politics, perhaps with good reason but with very bad effects. So the Obama-mania sweeping urban English-speaking Indians is perhaps a good thing in the sense that it atleast got them thinking about Indian ‘Obamas’, and being Indians why would we want to stop at one 😉 . Of course, India’s middle class wants an Indian version of everything American. No stone is left unturned to make Bollywood into our ‘Indian Hollywood’, the IITs are supposedly ‘Indian Harvards and MITs’, Rajiv Gandhi was the ‘Indian Kennedy’ … Instead of creating our own identity from our own genius, like Mahatma Gandhi did and ISRO has just done, we are content to apishly follow whatever the goras do.
Having said that, I wanted to objectively evaluate India’s potential ‘Obamas’, three names that have come up pretty consistently are Rahul Gandhi (INC), Sachin Pilot (INC) and Omar Abdullah (NC). The discerning observer will quickly realize that these are all heirs of a political dynasty, which although not Obama-esque, does not automatically mean that they cannot be good leaders for India. So I am going to compare these 3 guys + my candidate, Kiren Rijiju (someone you have probably never heard of, no dynasty here), and who in all likelihood is never going to get above some insignificant ministry, inspite of his great love and concern for India and his competence as a politician.
First, I have 6 or 7 parameters that will compare how effective these guys (all MPs) are as legislators (how aware and concerned they are about issues, how actively they think of solutions and take the initiative to implement them), leadership within the house (membership on committees, asking questions and taking part in debates), their education and special honours. All information is from the Lok Sabha website.
- Number of bills introduced/involved in : Abdullah (introduced 1 on export promotion), Pilot (0), Gandhi (0), Rijiju (introduced 2 to amend consti, 1 for special assistance for Arunachal, involved in electricity bill 2005, 13 other involvements)
- Resolutions : Abdullah (0), Pilot (1), Gandhi (0), Rijiju (4)
- Questions raised : Abdullah (0), Pilot (1), Gandhi (3, all unstarred), Rijiju (245, many starred + 2 supplemetary questions)
- Debates participated in : Abdullah (16), Pilot (16), Gandhi (4), Rijiju (89)
- Special Mentions : Abdullah (0), Pilot (0), Gandhi (0), Rijiju (14)
- Membership on prominent committees : Abdullah (Commerce), Pilot (Home Affairs), Gandhi (Human Resource Development), Rijiju (Energy)
- Education : Abdullah (B.Com Sydenham College), Pilot (BA, Uni. of Delhi, MBA, Wharton), Gandhi (M.Phil Cambridge University ), Rijiju (BA, LLB, Uni. of Delhi)
- Special Honours : Abdullah (Led Indian delegations to many important conferences, nominated global economic leader by World Economic Forum), Pilot ( 😮 ), Gandhi ( 😮 ), Rijiju (Member, Khadi and Village Industrial Commission, GoI, 2001-2004)
So, its pretty clear who the better legislator and leader in parliament is. You must constantly keep in mind how easy it is for the Abdullahs, Pilots and Gandhis to get on commitees and attention in the house. And Rijiju did all this being in the opposition ! Can one really turn around a nation if on does not have the strength and conviction to be a good legislator first ?
Now for the ‘intangibles’. Vinod Sharma correctly says that India needs a leader not a ruler. So has any of these guys shown any potential of being a leader of people ? Abdullah has shown some passion and is a good speaker, but I havent seen him do much otherwise. Rijiju, though has the balls to stand up to China and demand a secure Arunachal and a free Tibet, but sadly his efforts seem to be in vain,
As a Member of Parliament, I have done enough, I have tried everything, but the response is not enough. Before I came to Parliament, my predecessors were silent. As you know Parliament is a very noisy place.
Usually people from the northeast are calm, gentle, but I am of a different breed. I speak, shout, come down to the well (of the House), I make my point. Now people know about Arunachal, but what the government does is another thing. They are too busy with political problems, which are not national problems. It is eating the mind of the leaders and the real issues remain unsolved, unattended.
He also properly assesses Pakistan,
Why should we pay so much attention to Pakistan, a small neighbour? Just forget it! We can just have normal relations with them. What is the point of spending so much time, energy and brains on (this country).
Don’t forget that Kashmir is claimed by a small country which does not economically or militarily match India, while Arunachal is claimed by a nation far superior to India.
And the US,
The problem is that India is obsessed with America. All the brains of the ministry of external affairs and the think-thanks in India are obsessed with two countries only: The US and Pakistan.
Let us continue to have good relations with the US. But why be obsessed with them? While news in Washington or Lahore make headlines here, nobody knows about the border areas.
He has just been chosen as one of the top 200 iconic youth leaders from Asia-Pacific and is in Tokyo attending the Asia 21 summit.
When was the last time Rahul Gandhi or Pilot talked about a secure India ? Do they give you the impression that they can bring change or even try to bring change that they are passionate about ? Do they ever talk passionately about … anything ? Has any neutral source ever honoured them ? This is perhaps just the destiny of a country and a culture conditioned to be scared and afraid and not look at things objectively. India perhaps has many potential Obamas, working in NGOs throughout the country or even in Parliament trying to make a change, but will we give them a chance ?
Quotes are from this Rediff interview.
P.S. : I might have been a bit unfair to Gandhi, and particularly Pilot (who actually seems to work quite hard on many fronts), but I just want people to think objectively before choosing their political heroes.