Crises and deadlocks, when they occur, have at least this advantage: they force us to think. Today’s leaders would do well by heeding this advice from our first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.
Last year it was Anna Hazare’s fasts and in the past few months it has been Team Kejriwal’s dreaded press conferences that have put the spotlight on the decades-old evil India has unsuccessfully fought or, rather, not fought enough, to eliminate —corruption.
If you add to that a slowing economy, spiralling inflation and the downgrade of India’s sovereign rating by international agencies, the immediate future looks seriously gloomy.
Elsewhere in the world, the political and economic environment remains equally uncertain. Greece continues to boil, while Europe remains a divided house on the future of its common currency and the resilience of its union.
In the United States, Barack Obama won a second term amid louder calls for protectionism in the world’s largest economy. Last year’s Arab Spring, which tripped several authoritarian regimes in the Middle East, has yet to usher in democracy in the region.
Closer home, China saw a change of guard, with little clarity on the vision that its new leadership would pursue in guiding the Asian giant into the future.
In India, the unrest in the civil society has taken a decidedly uncivil turn. The strategy to name-and-shame politicians and business houses has shaken up the establishment and provided fodder for the media, particularly on 24x7 television news channels.
Faced with mounting criticism, the prime minister reshuffled his cabinet and gave it a clear directive — deliver, deliver, deliver. Things need to get moving, and not just because of the 2014 elections. Be it businesses and the millions of young people waiting for the economic engine to be revved up or the anti-corruption protesters, neither can, or will, wait until things change.
What we need today from our leaders is to show us just that — leadership. Defining it inevitably means listing catchphrases — judgment, vision, mettle. But the challenges are too many and too pressing for us to ignore them any longer.
As in the past years, the 10th edition of the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit this year will focus on these imperatives, bringing together thought leaders from around the world to debate what India needs to do next.
- Sanjoy Narayan