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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 51 New Delhi December 10, 2016

Leading by Example

Sunday 11 December 2016, by Mukul Dube

Throughout history, it has been held that leaders should lead by example. In the military, the officer is expected to set an example of bravery and good soldiering. In society in general, the expectation is that if the leader does good things, the people too will do good things.

In today’s India, however, our leaders lead only by command and set an extraordinarily bad example. If Modi is taken to be the ideal, the exemplar, then the poorest of his followers should have many, many suits of expensive clothes which they should change several times a day. If Jaitley is the exemplar, then India’s people should all possess enormous sums of money in cash.

In a country the vast majority of whose people are poor, a display of wealth by its leaders is not just unseemly but obscene. It stinks of the worst kinds of social organisation, in which royalty and aristocracy are far above the ordinary people.

I have no doubt that Modi’s followers are proud of the fact that their leader wears expensive clothes which are beyond their reach, that his Italian eye-glasses are the most expensive made anywhere, and that he rubs shoulders with the wealthiest capitalists in the country.

In this adulation the principle of equality is thrown to the winds. Modi’s followers do not realise that Indian democracy, which provided the mechanism by which Modi rose to the top, is severely undermined by his vulgar display of pelf. They do not realise that the suit which had his name all over it was laughed at by the whole world.

That the leader mixes with the Tatas and the Ambanis certainly does not impart any eminence to him. All it means is that the capitalists find it necessary to cultivate the man so that they get cheap land and mining rights, usually going against the laws of the land, and so that they get state assistance in pushing back the rights of the workers. It is more than likely that in private they laugh at the buffoon who insists on embracing not just them but also the world’s leaders in order to create an aura of camaraderie and intimacy.

India’s present Prime Minister rose to that position because 31 per cent of India’s voters voted for him in 2014. We do not know the income distribution within that 31 per cent, but it is not difficult to conclude that the bulk of the 69 per cent who did not vote for him are poor people. But let us concede that there were many poor people in the 31 per cent also. Do these poor people, who voted for the successful candidate, not see that he is doing all in his power to ensure their continued exploitation and dispossession? Has even the disaster of demonetisation failed to open their eyes? Across the land, the common people have been standing for hours so that they can get their hands on their own money. Labourers and small vendors are the worst sufferers.

For some days there have been advertisements on the radio, repeated all day long, issued “in the public interest by the Government of India”, pushing the use of mobile phones for making payments and transferring money. Can anyone in their right mind even imagine a rural landless labourer having a bank account and a mobile phone? Can electronic payments buy articles of food worth ten or fifteen rupees? Has a phone been invented which can spit out paper or metallic currency?

It is telling that when it became clear that the recent demonetisation had created chaos, Modi’s rhetoric switched abruptly from

growth

to

development

and repeated claims that his move would benefit the poor and the farmer. How long will we quietly swallow such deceptions as “Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana”? Can we not see that in the very name of this scheme there is nothing but self-promotion and a wholly false gesture towards the poor?

How long will bogus promises continue to blind us to the reality? How long can we afford to follow the example of this lying leader?

The author is a writer, editor and photographer.

ISSN : 0542-1462 / RNI No. : 7064/62