Fast Forward to 2014
All this talk about the upcoming November elections in the United States has me wondering what will happen in India when a leadership change becomes due. The next elections are slated for 2014. That’s not as far off as one might think. [By then, I hope to be safely ensconced back on U.S. soil, a country that is once more being led by one Barack Obama. Let’s see…].
Over these many months of living here, I have devoured all the information I could find on just about anything happening in this country. I’ve simply soaked it up like a sponge, knowing full well that it has been an unforeseen, unplanned happenstance to be here at all. I am not about to miss the opportunity of experiencing life eyes-wide-open in India!
As for Indian politics, I have at various times been amazed, dismayed, dumbfounded, angered (oh my, yes!) and stupefied about what I have found and learned on the ground.
Based on what I have been able to observe and absorb, I have come up with what I feel are the top choices (I’ve limited myself to just four) for the next Prime Minister of India, two each from the leading coalition governments – Congress-led UPA and BJP-led NDA.
This is who I think they are and how I regard each of them, in case anyone cares what an expat thinks –
If Congress-led UPA comes to power again in 2014 (something that looked highly unlikely just days ago, prior to the most recently announced new economic reforms – the success of these may actually serve to erase some of their tainted rule), here are the two candidates who could become the next leader of India –
1. Manmohan Singh
The current Prime Minister remains a good choice for the party except for two things – he probably doesn’t want the job and his age (79) may preclude him from serving. He is already the oldest head of state of a leading economy. But let’s not forget that one Mr. Morarji Desai became prime minister at the ripe old age of 81!
If not for these aspects, he remains the “best”, non-controversial choice for the party given his squeaky clean image, provided he can outgrow his reputation for silence and inaction as leaders from his party plunder the coffers. Just in the past few days, he has been able to shake up his reputation for “paralysis” by introducing new economic reforms and thumbing his nose at his opposition. About time. Still, if all I could come up with for one of the choices in Congress was this, it should tell you something about the dearth of leaders in the party, current or emerging.
2. Rahul Gandhi
This is the other popular choice within the party – the scion of the Nehru dynasty, the natural inheritor of the throne, and Indian political royalty. But, really this is a scary choice. Who knows much about this man? Rumors abound, some nasty, some frightening, some perplexing.
It’s very difficult to imagine what kind of leader he will be of this highly complex democracy but the signs are not comforting. Is there time between now and 2014 to allay people’s fears and create a sense of reassurance and confidence that he can lead India? Unlikely. Yet, there he is (except when he simply disappears), the likely and prospective inheritor of the throne.
Singh and Gandhi are the top probabilities from the current leading political party.
On the other hand, if the BJP-led NDA party comes into power, here’s my take on the top two potential candidates –
3. Narendra Modi
He is already posturing to become the leader of the nation. There are simply no moderate, middle-ground opinions on the man. People either love him, or quite the opposite. Controversy is his middle name. He gets top marks for governance – tough governance that puts his state of Gujarat as arguably the most progressive one in the country. He has invested, developed and advanced the state on all fronts of the economy, be it infrastucture, industry or education.
Yet, he is tainted by the past. The United States has refused to grant him a visa on humanitarian grounds. He attracts controversy – even within his own party. Having my own conflicting opinions of him, and if wishes could come true, I wish the incidents of 2002 could just be erased, because this country could totally use a formidable administrator like him to set it on the right path. But (there comes the “but”). Wishes simply remain wishes and the controversies surrounding him are non-trivial, refusing to die down. In spite of this, he is a leading contender to be the next PM. This reflects India’s great longing for a strong leader combined with the sheer lack of real options available.
4. Nitish Kumar
He’s the dark horse (read this article in Tehelka) who denies any interest in becoming a national political figure. Ever since I discovered this leader, the Chief Minister of Bihar, I have been following everything about him. If I were to have one political hero in India, it is Nitish Kumar. [Unfortunately, if I were to have a second political hero, it would be hard for me to name such a person].
Nitish Kumar is politically astute and has taken the long, hard road to get where he is – suffering political losses over time and using them to strengthen his strategies and tactics, step by gradual step. The progress that he has led in the state of Bihar has become the stuff of legend. And the excellent work he is doing continues. You just don’t see too many good turnaround stories like this one in India.
If wishes were horses
…and if opinions counted, why, my wish for this country would be for the dark horse to win. Because in my humble opinion, he demonstrates the best all-around characteristics to lead – astute, respected, determined, secular, hard-working, proven, honest and eager to serve. He has the potential to succeed in taking this country forward the way it should. These are exactly the kind of characteristics that India is hungry for, ones that would build pride in her citizens – were they to be lucky enough to get him as a leader for their country.
BRIC leaders: By José Cruz/ABr [CC-BY-3.0-br (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/br/deed.en)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Gandhi family: http://bharatkalyan97.blogspot.in
Narendra Modi: By World Economic Forum [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Nitish Kumar: http://biharzone.com/people/nitish-kumar-biography/attachment/bill-gates-bihar-nitish, by Aftab alam siddiqui
India Gate: By Amit Kumar (email@example.com) (http://www.flickr.com/photos/fl_amit/5109308509) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons