So many politicians, it seems, want to be the Prime Minister of India. One of them is Mulayam Singh Yadav of Uttar Pradesh. Another is Nitish Kumar of Bihar. Thank God Jayalalithaa of Tamil Nadu and Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy have expressed no such desire. One has to be grateful to them for small mercies.
As India was about to get Independence the Mahatma’s choice for the top job was Jawaharlal Nehru, not Vallabhbhai Patel who would any day have been a better option. One supposes that Nehru was chosen, among many reasons.
What are the qualifications called for today to fill the Prime Ministerial role? “Warm heartedness”, according to Bihar’s Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. Is he talking about getting a son-in-law? The Prime Ministership of India is in many ways a unique job. For that matter India itself is a unique country. Which other nation in the entire world can say that it mothers over 22 major languages, over 600 minor ones, literally hundreds of castes and sub-castes and yet happily carries on with minimal internal conflicts?
A Prime Minister’s appeal must go across religions, castes and creeds, linguistic affiliations and political motivations. At first sight it is asking for the impossible.
One will argue that a Prime Minister must, first and foremost, be a diplomat. To a point one would agree that it is a sound proposition. In such a varied country like India. appropriate diplomacy that soothes tempers would be a most desirable qualification. But then one expects something more of a Prime Ministerial candidate like awareness of culture standards that vary from region to region, say as between Telangana and Andhra Seema or between Bodos and Todas. This calls for wide travelling, meeting people at all levels, being available to anyone with valid complaints, to the point that a Prime Minister must seem like a father figure willing, at least, to listen to peoples’ distress. But we are talking about, not Belgium or the Netherlands but of India with its multiplicity of problems and the need to take firm action both at the domestic as well as international levels.
Being warm-hearted is fine but the jihadis out to kill Indians in Kashmir need to be handled in a stern way which Chanakaya always bore in mind when he wrote his tantra. Warm-heartedness, he would have said, is a huge joke. Or take the case of what the venal and vindictive Akhilesh Yadav did to one of his administration officials, Durga Shakti Nagpal. What Akhilesh deserved was not Prime Ministerial warm-heartedness but a half-an-hour of verbal thrashing he would not forget in a life-time. Dr Manmohan Singh maybe warm-hearted, but he is unfit for his job, considering the way his UPA government has reacted to the murder of five Indian Army soldiers and the unacceptable excuses given to the Parliament by his Defence Minister AK Antony. A strong-minded Prime Minister would have told in no uncertain measure to Pakistan – and its close and dear friends in Washington and Beijing – that another such move would invite bombing of jihadi training centres.
As always national interests must come first. During the Second World War, Britain’s villainous Prime Minister, Winston Churchill couldn’t care two hoots about India’s feelings. His first aim was to see that his forces were well-fed, even if it meant starving Indians. As a result over 3 to 5 million Bengalis were starved to death in a man-made famine and there was no apology coming from 10 Downing Street. Apart from that, an Indian Prime Minister must be able to easily “communicate” with Indians of all classes. Has Nitish Kumar or, for that matter Mulayam Singh Yadav ever sought to learn even how to say ‘Thank you’ in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada or Tulu, let alone in Gujarati and Marathi? To presume that a born-Hindi politician has a natural right to claim Prime Ministership is sheer impertinence. They should be warned not to take South India for granted and create needless problems. The same can be said of IK Gujaral who did not know a word of any south Indian language.
The time has come to tell politicians that the Prime Ministership of India is not for sale to the highest bidder, like Nitish Kumar and Mulayam Singh, or, for that matter, Mayawati. And they would do well to remember that. A Prime Minister’s job, again, does not necessarily call for knowledge of technicalities which is why, one presumes, any Tom, Dick and Harry feels he can claim the right to be Prime Minister, unchallenged. Many of our arrogant politicians believe they need not know much of anything as long as they have vile political backing. Naming a Prime Minister is not the same thing as naming, say, a Governor for the Reserve Bank of India, but even here the financial acumen of the Bank’s newest appointee, Raghuram Rajan is under deep scan and scrutiny.
How much more scanning needs to be called for in naming a Prime Minister who has to handle the economic, social and political welfare and security of an entire nation?
Of course, there is no such thing as an ‘ideal’ Prime Ministerial candidate as even Rahul Gandhi must have learnt by now, if Sonia Gandhi hasn’t. One can talk about all other virtues a candidate must possess like idealism, courage of conviction, determination to stand one’s ground, ability to detect the difference between what is right and what is possible before taking a decision, but please, please ladies and gentlemen, do not take fellow countrymen as pawns in a dirty game. They are sufficiently sophisticated to not so easily fall to media exaggerations, and media hype.