The first reform that the BJP has to undertake is reform within: the way its leaders conduct themselves within the party, in the government and with the public. Leaders would do well to remember that power flows through you and not from you. Politicians tend to forget that the public has chosen them to serve as servants and not as masters, and that the power that flows through them can start flowing through any other leader. See how many cabinet ministers lost, in the 2014 elections.
A minister’s personal assistant complained: “people come from the minister’s constituency, congratulating him for a scheme that is a total failure and no one dares to tell him the truth. He takes the praise at face value and continues to expand the scheme, unaware of the ground level talk’. Be careful of praise and encourage people around you to speak the truth, even if it is unpleasant.
Seek Out Honest Feedback
Ideally, the party should set up an internal team that critically examines the government’s functioning and gives feedback to the party high command before it is too late. Another big problem with the senior party leaders is that they seem to ‘know everything’ and are not interested to listen, but like lecturing.
If this does not change, the leaders don’t learn anything new, but only share what they know. So there is no value addition to their knowledge. Leaders must encourage others to speak and listen carefully. But the public must also realise the importance of the leader’s time and be brief and to the point and speak the truth without caring for the consequences.
Servants, not Masters
All senior leaders and ministers must make it a point to visit the field regularly and that too, unannounced, and spend at least 30 percent of their work time in the field. If the visits are pre-announced, the areas and projects are decked up for the ‘show’ and the reality remains hidden. Surprise visits will reveal the real situation on ground, so that corrective actions can be taken before the media starts the post mortem, and the public sentiment turns to anti-incumbency.
Read as much as you can. A few leaders who have reached the top are voracious readers. ‘A good reader is a good leader’. Leaders must dedicate time daily to reading newspapers and relevant literature and books, to keep themselves updated on what’s going on around them A new breed of leaders are convinced of their own genius and don’t feel the need to consult anyone. In reality, it would be great to bounce new ideas off a senior leader or colleague, to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.
Politicians must be clear on what they want to accomplish in the short, medium and long term and must state their working principles for the team (office staff and bureaucrats), and give them enough freedom to take decisions within the defined framework and evaluate them for their deliverables. It would be a great idea to take the power of saying ‘no’ from the bureaucrats. For saying ‘no’, they should have to take approvals from the immediate senior. This one change will transform the way the government works.
Intent & Will before Vision
Also, it has been seen that the personal staff of ministers tend to be more ‘powerful’ than the ministers, and most of the time, lack basic courtesy while dealing with the public. This must be tackled on priority, as wrong handling can have a cascading negative impact. All politicians know that it is not possible to meet the expectations of every citizen in their constituency, but it is certainly possible to talk to them respectfully, and explain the situation directly, or through staff, if some particular thing cannot be done.
And, don’t work only in the fifth, pre-poll year, but work for all the five years that you have been voted for. A lot of leaders show off their clout by quoting internal discussions of the government or the party in the media. This negates decades of good work and weakens the organisation, and must be avoided at all costs.
People said that Narendra Modi has a vision, but they forget that, before the vision, you need to have the ‘intent’ and the ‘will’, and the vision shapes up automatically. Once you have the vision, you need to implement it, and there is no substitute for hard work. With Modi running the government, leaders will do well to learn and unlearn quickly, so that they deliver on the sky-high expectations set after the 2014 results Well, all the above will naturally happen if you have genuine intent to work for the people.
A lot many people come into politics for power and position but forget that politics is only a platform for serving people The Indian public knows what to do and when! Results of 2009 and 2014 clear any misgivings that our leaders have about the maturity of our voters and the strength of the democratic system and so, don’t forget that ‘prepare and prevent is better than repair and repent’
Rajendra Pratap Gupta
This article appeared in The Economic Times on 26th May , 2014 in the edit page