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One Man Army

Is the largest ruling party really a one-man army? It might appear so, for everyone seems to have disappeared in the twilight zone but for the leader. A subtle Presidential system seems to be overwhelmingly taking over a sputtering and backfiring Parliamentary system. Our Nation is in the throes of a great political disruption, similar to a bottom-up revolution on the scale of what upended the music, television, movie, media, and retail industries. More than technology, the Internet, Big data or Artificial Intelligence, new actors seem to be emerging every day, influenced by an ideology that they may or may not understand, led However, by a master craftsman at the helm. Egos are being dismantled day in and day out, shifting power centres northwards, creating an aura of invincibility along the way. People have fallen by the wayside, unable to comprehend the change that is overwhelming and subsuming them.

Four types of people form the nucleus and the outer core of mankind, proactive, active, reactive and inactive. From the ones who create and control a situation, rather than respond to it after it has happened, to the inactive who only bear the consequences, sum up the two ends of the stick. Unfortunately, rest is just reactive and fill 90% of the void in between. Disruption in politics we are seeing, is not due to technology alone. It is as much due to people and their native intelligence as much as one man in the midst of us.

Long after the dust has settled, the TV channels will analyse the current election jamboree and likely attribute the success to the people, their erudition, resilience and forbearance, the democracy and its vibrancy, success of the EVM’s and the effective use of digital tools. But who really is the hero of this more than two months pulsating game, the master craftsman of the mega event, apparently the most charismatic leader who brooks no nonsense and doesn’t mind taking the bull by the horn, pushing every other leader to the side-lines? The hysterical aura created is almost palpable and not lost on any one. The leader has truly acquired the status of a cult figure. The term “personality cult” has a very negative connotation and, is typically associated with the repression of civil liberties, and the consolidation of state control. The notion of building and maintaining a personality cult also requires a great amount of assiduous planning. Is this narcissism or is this veneration of the highest order? He is the master strategist and does not hesitate to conquer come what may. He even turns every single event to his advantage and indulges in street bravado. He is rewriting the political narrative and one-upmanship. He is disrupting every single norm and tenet along the way to the chagrin of his adversaries who are left gasping for breath.

Be it the couched road show in a restricted area after voting, or the aggressive posturing on the opponents barbs, being fully aware of practising the same himself, or taking pot-shots at the opponents less than intelligent outpourings, or treading in the grey area of contempt of the Courts, or the not so political interview to the Bollywood bigwigs, or the mega road show in his constituency, making it a point to showcase to the world and to his own mavericks and sundry supporting him, or driving the electorate to frenzy on his personal charisma, the monolithic edifice and its arbiter seem to have arrived.

The people have lapped it all up, seen only briefly in a few tall leaders of the earlier governments. It However, seems surprising that people should display such attachment to political leaders when the basic necessities of roti, kapda aur makaan are hardly met. Systems of patronage and preferment may be universal, but if they assume larger than life proportions, they must be researched and intelligently extrapolated for a peek into the future. Today, citizens want heroes to worship and covetous elites are more than willing to mislead.

The last five years has seen a great verbal comprehension, a spatial visualization, an analytical, creative and practical intelligence, a reasoning ability, the perceptual speed outrunning everyone, an uncanny ability to use numbers, a word fluency par excellence whether in the native language or another, in a single person that is difficult to match. The associative memory required to be there where it matters, is borne out of an understanding of not so much as one’s own strengths to as much as others weaknesses.

The rest are left wondering where the race is happening and where the next turn would take them, thus leaving the baton always with the headman. The adversaries have to out think, outsmart and outrun him, if they have to even figure in the obituary. Being reactive, defensive and meek will only dent their credibility. Every word spoken, every act done must outdo him in both time and scale if they do not want to be also rans. The strategy of the opposition needs a makeover.

The achievement of advanced democracies like that of ours, has been to replace monolithic structures by the rational bureaucratic organisations within political parties and governments to check rise of cult like leaders. It is in this context that the supreme leader’s exhortation to party workers and the people to “live, work, grow, fight and win as one” must be seen. But where will the oneness come from to win and unite the Nation? National outcomes or actions cannot be borne out of personal beliefs. Hence hatred for parties should not translate to hatred for their leaders. Cult figures rise when subtle, unedifying attempts of leaders to equate themselves with the nation. A great leader swayed by nationalism, tends to associate with totalitarian societies that are willing to suspend reason to embody an entire nation in one individual. It does make sense for a leader to try to remain popular in the eyes of the people, devoting lots of time and resources, building an idealized appearance, since there would be a chance to return to power, five years later. Indian democracy is much more robust than merely being driven by rhetoric, steeped in nationalism. Indeed, people power will triumph when all else fails.

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