Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi is a man of extraordinary humility, though some of his uncompromising positions may give the impression of arrogance. His response to the dispiriting defeats on Sunday was graceful and genuine.
While complimenting AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal on his victory, Gandhi said he would learn from his success. Here are some points to take note of from Kejriwal’s style — areas in which Gandhi could do better.
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1) Politics is not like running an NGO — Kejriwal started as an NGO activist and graduated to electoral politics. He converted an NGO into a political party, which proved its impact. Many Congressmen fear that Gandhi may be doing the opposite — turning a party into an NGO. Both are social interventions; but electoral politics is a higher form and it has a different style.
2) Value people who can mobilise people — Congress is often described as a mere election-fighting machine. Gandhi has taken that criticism very seriously and swung to the other extreme of considering elections as evil and politics as something above and beyond elections. While it is true that any kind of meaningful politics will have to be beyond elections, elections and mobilisation are important.
Even if power is evil, it is a necessary evil. Power is not poison — as Gandhi had declared — and power must be sought, and unapologetically so. Far from keeping off those who are capable of mobilising people and winning elections, they should be co-opted. Mass mobilisation is the core activity of politics — not writing concept papers.
3) Take the risk, offer the solution — Gandhi has often said it is for the people of India to find solutions; that he is just one of them. He never expressed any desire to become PM; Kejriwal, on the other hand, offers solutions, and, arrogant as it may sound, the people want that. Kejriwal sought an opportunity to implement those solutions.
4) Learning is never-ending, but acting immediately is imperative: fear of doing wrong does not stop Kejriwal from doing; he admits there are things that he has gone wrong on. One must be learning constantly, as Gandhi does, but that cannot be the reason for delaying action.
5) Communicate, interact — Kejriwal meets virtually anyone who wants to meet him, the phone operators do not decide whom he meets. He obviously does not oblige or get influenced by everyone who meets him. Directly communicating with as many people as possible is the most essential component of effective leadership. Gandhi should be available to all, particularly Congressmen, without requiring them to answer a questionnaire.
6) Finally, and most importantly, Gandhi should not try to be another Kejriwal, who is a challenger and disrupter; Gandhi is the inheritor of a 128-year-old legacy. He can polish, refurbish and retrofit that legacy (in fact, he badly needs to shake up that lethargic and unaccountable system); but he cannot disown or distance from that legacy as he often attempts to.
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