When Politicians and People Connect

nat5.jpgThe Leader and the people are like stars and ships. An age old bond existed between emperors, kings, governors, mayors; in recent times, it is so between prime ministers, chancellors, presidents, chief ministers and the public. In the renowned play, Julius Caesar, as depicted by William Shakespeare, the public oration by Mark Anthony changed the course of history. It turned public opinion by a complete 180 degrees and what followed can well be invoked to illustrate the thin yet crucial thread connecting the people and their leader.

In the Indian context, this can be readily seen in the recent Gujrat assembly polls where the powerful oratory by Narendra Modi in over 200 rallies, combined with well planned strategic electioneering and targeting people centric issues, swept Gujarat with a thundering majority in Modi’s favour. It re-affirms the point made about the role people play in shaping a successful leader and a successful leader who leads the people. The agenda that Modi came out with, went beyond Hindutva and development which are the pillars of ideologies of the Bhartiya Janta Party and covered all the bases, right from security to promotion of regional interests. The Modi government targeted specific groups of people to develop strong vote banks. Youth, women, tribal groups and fishermen were focused and concerns of these groups were addressed. To get his message across to as many people as possible, Modi addressed 200 poll meetings in a span of 17 days, working 14 hours a day and travelling alternately by a chopper and a converted Toyota land cruiser. He recounted the successful programmes run by his government in previous two terms and the proposed plans for the third term that will be undertaken, if the public chooses to re-elect him. It went down extremely well with the masses and the figures speak for themselves. But, behind the figures is the man himself. As Uday Mahurkar puts it, “Modi, the individual was the overriding factor, his personality and undoubted charisma and the clear invocation of Gujarati pride far outweighed the caste, community, incumbency, dissidence, level of opposition, party affiliation and inputs from central leadership. This was a one man army.” This reflects the media opinion and underlines the significance of the important thread between the success of a leader and the ease with which he/she can connect with the people.

This fact was also tested and proved right in May 2007 when BSP, under Mayawati’s leadership, made the biggest sweep seen after BJP’s winning 221 seats in 1991; they won 206 out of 354 seats. It was for the first time that a minority party had made it to the majority. Like Modi, she had a hard hitting campaign addressing the societal menace of what she called the ‘Goonda Raj’. She had a mission and an agenda to match. It connected with the people immediately and her tremendous success at the vote bank stands testimony to the fact.

Political parties have to find ‘leaders’ among their politicians rather than taking recourse and falling back on their ideologies to pump them with the strength they require to fight elections. Leaders can work with same ideologies with a different approach and that can make the world go round. Congress performed dismally in Gujarat because it did not have a face and a personality to match Modi and his aggression. A similar situation exists in many states where the concerned parties haven’t yet made up their minds about who they are going to project as the future chief minister. For instance, Ashok Gehlot from Congress has been eased out and there is no one yet to fight Vasundara Raje from BJP in the Rajasthan assembly elections, slated to take place in 2009. Infact, the Manmohan-Sonia combination and Advani-Rajnath twosome do not have it in them that which can be termed as having a nation-wide appeal. It is a top-bottom view politics these days but what is required is a bottom-top approach, starting from the masses to the states to the entire nation. None of the national parties have a leader with nation-wide appeal. A politician should stike a right balance between conviction, vision and a strong heart. He should connect to the masses and it is a fact that only mass leaders garner mass votes.

In this light, the refreshing magnetism of Moditva is a heartening wave in the state and as well as national politics. Think of original Mrs. G. India was her indisputable fiefdom. Her electric and charismatic persona only added to the already dynamic leadership skills she possessed. Such leadership redefines ideologies. That is also precisely why Modi and Maya swept their states with crisp, aggressive, accessible and appealing presentation of the ideologies they embody. For politics’ sake, let there be more Modi-Maya-politics where politicians and people connect

Himadri Agarwal