Rajendra K. Aneja
Nations get the presidents and prime ministers they deserve. With a national election just over, it is time to scan the prime minister that India needs and delineate the vision, values, principles and qualities he or she must possess.
A person with no principles or the wrong principles cannot make a good PM. The PM must be a person of absolute personal and public integrity, devoid of any financial peccadillo. The PM must guard standards of conduct in public life. He must rise above factional politics.
Freedom encompasses the rights to vote, speak, write, dissent and act according to one's conscience. The PM must genuinely believe in and foster the fundamental freedoms of ordinary citizens.
The PM must have genuine concern for human life, irrespective of financial and religious background. The PM must have a secular outlook; all religions should co-exist harmoniously.
A PM who knows not what he wishes to achieve will achieve nothing. He must have a clear vision for a new India, encompassing the resolution of domestic problems and the global role. The vision has to be laudable but achievable, if it is to be credible. The PM should make a lucid mission statement, delineating the direction in which he will propel the country. He should adumbrate his strategy to translate the mission into reality.
The PM should translate his vision into a specific agenda. He must be accountable for quantifiable goals, viz, (a) GDP targets, (b) per capita income levels, (c) reduction in poverty, (d) employment generation; (e) family planning; and (f) literacy improvement. He must welcome a transparent annual review of goals. Accountability is the soul of a democracy.
The PM must deliver promises within a decade. He should have a maximum tenure of two terms, i.e., 10 years. Protracted stay can make him a prisoner in the hands of his advisors.
A mountain of problems confront India, viz, sustaining growth rates, unemployment, casteism, feudalism, religious bigotry and urban/rural infrastructure. The PM should set 5 to 10 critical goals and pursue them relentlessly. The PM must prioritize sharply.
The world is surging ahead to meet the challenges of the 21st century. The new order is characterised by (a) end of the cold war, (b) rise in religious fervour, terrorism in some countries, (c) terrible recession, and (d) pre-dominant role of technology, electronics and communications. India must rid itself of ideological shackles. The PM will have to be an economic wizard to translate his agenda into results.
The PM must be an open-minded, radical thinker. He need not be an expert in nuclear physics or computers. But he should know what the sciences can deliver. He must ask the right questions of experts and have the discriminating judgment to sift good advice from bad.
Myopic leaders have sought to divide the 'rural masses' and the so-called 'urban elite'. The PM must deal with the unexpected but also create the unexpected. He must bridge the psychological rural-urban hiatus. The PM must be a problem solver and clincher. He must possess the negotiating skills to resolve pending issues like Kashmir.
Above all, the PM will have to be a great leader of men. In the past, leaders have been elected on the basis of caste, creed and family, rather than merit, governing ability and economic pragmatism. The new PM must have the technical and managerial skills to govern. He must be both, a thinker and a doer.
The PM must have a vision of a new India, but his feet must be firmly planted on the ground. He must be a person with immense stamina, a cool head, ability to withstand stress and deliver under pressure.
He must be acutely conscious of his limitations to select his advisors prudently. Politics is undergoing a significant metamorphosis. The era of becoming PM on the basis of participation in the freedom struggle concluded with Lal Bahadur Shastri in 1966. The era of PMs based on family surname could also recede. The new India should select PMs on the basis of talent, intelligence and capacity to manage.
History reveres a PM if he shapes events in the manner he wants. The PM must make his mark by proactively moulding events. He must possess extraordinary courage, will and firmness. He should deal sternly with law and order problems, terrorism and demands for secession.
The PM must develop his own information system. He should not depend inordinately on chums, bureaucrats, for feedback. He must visit the villages regularly to understand problems on the ground. Emperor Akbar travelled in disguise in bazaars to ascertain the plight of ordinary citizens.
Finally, a PM should also be able to laugh at himself daily, to survive!
Seeking all these qualities in one single person may seem a tall order. But the job of the PM, in India, the world's largest democracy, is gigantic too. India needs a man of outstanding integrity, ability and talent as PM if the country is to shine in the 21st century. Surely, a nation of a billion people can produce such a leader. For the right PM, the job offers great challenges; but equally, historic opportunities.
India awaits such a prime minister.