JUST as a journalist cannot claim the power of a politician, a politician cannot presume the liberty of a journalist.

Perhaps the pre-eminent BJP leader L.K. Advani slipped from one world to the other because he was a journalist for many years, and it remains a fond memory; perhaps he still thirsts for that freedom of expression through a blog that is simply not permitted to a political leader.

The downside, as he should know better than anyone else, is that the media, which needs a diet of at least one juicy story a day, will, given the slightest chance, take an inch and turn it into a mile. That is in the nature of this ravenous beast. Mr Advani’s blog on the post-election scenario appeared on a lean news day. The media put some pickle around the story and had a feast.

His analysis was objective, which, of course, was the problem as far as his politics. Politicians are expected to shape analysis towards their partisan ends, or remain silent. It would be interesting, however, to treat what he wrote on its merits, and check whether it stands up to scrutiny.

He felt that since neither the BJP nor the Congress would have a majority on its own, it was plausible that a prime minister could emerge from outside their fold. He raised this as a possibility, not a certainty. Such an eventuality has happened before, he added. He then quickly concluded (which was largely ignored by the media) that such a government could not last.

He also noted that the Congress numbers in the Lok Sabha could come down to double digits, so Congress support would be fragile. A stable PM would either need the BJP’s support or would have to come from the BJP.

Such projections are par for the course in conversations this season in Delhi. If anyone else had written this, any self-respecting eyebrow would not have bothered to flicker. The fact that such talk has become mundane is, if you think about it, the real story. It is indicative of a new mood. If the discourse has shifted to a non-UPA prime minister after the next general elections, it is only because the possibility has moved from possible to probable.

This debate is welcome because it is a natural element of the democratic process. It is only in dynastic succession that there is no debate, with consequences that are not necessarily beneficial. The Congress does not debate the accession of Rahul Gandhi because it is not allowed to. The Samajwadi Party does not debate the succession of Akhilesh Yadav because it is not permitted to. If there is some debate within the DMK it is only whether the heir should be elder brother or younger brother.

The party in all cases is paying the price of closed options. The argument that a political party will crumble without the glue of a single family is not tenable, as far as the voter is concerned. If a political organisation is so brittle as to need the same leadership generation after generation, then it will no longer pass the test of time. Families have every right to live within a party; a party cannot live within a family.

In a remarkable coincidence, the strongest regional leaders at present have no anointed heirs: Nitish Kumar, Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee, Navin Patnaik or Jayalalitha. A successor may or may not come from a family, as for instance Jagan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh, but he will have to win his spurs with a personal display of commitment, as indeed Jagan Reddy has done.

Reddy has probably been saved by adversity. A soft landing into the CM’s chair after his charismatic father’s death could have pulped him; today he has more steel in his sinews.

The single most important criterion for leadership is not genes, but governance. Pedigree is supplementary, and not a very important criterion either. That is why Nitish Kumar and Narendra Modi are the names that bubble to the surface. Modi’s advantage is that he belongs to a party that will get the largest number of MPs if Congress slips in the next elections; his disadvantage is that BJP’s allies in the next coalition will not find him acceptable. Conversely, Nitish Kumar will be acceptable to allies, but does not belong to the party at the heart of the coalition.

This debate will eventually wind its way to a compromise. There will be twists and turns, as in the course of a political river. But do not expect a sudden flood in favour of any name. However, the relevant point is surely that the debate is considered legitimate rather than preposterous.

What Mr Advani wrote was correct, but for Advani the editor rather than Advani the leader. Political oratory opens the door to power, but only if you shut down half the dictionary.

The writer is editor of The Sunday Guardian, published from Delhi, India on Sunday, published from London and editorial director, India Today and Headlines Today.

More From This Section

A state of anarchy

THE deaths of innocent people in terrorist attacks are not mourned anymore. Growing fatalities are mere statistics....

Rape and restitution

THE attacks took place approximately a week ago. Two Indian soldiers, Sachin Gupta and Saurab Chopra, both in their...

Bard for our times

Shakespeare’s 450th birth anniversary falls today.

Bridging the abyss

Inclusive activities are key to integrating the blind.


Comments are closed.

Comments (7)

W.Sarmad Khan
August 12, 2012 10:01 am
I am not sure why this article has to be reproduced in Dawn. What is the purpose?
NASAH (USA)
August 12, 2012 12:29 pm
Because the dynastic politics is not dissimilar between the two sibling countries. The purpose is: Be aware of the genes!
imran khan shaikh
August 12, 2012 1:33 pm
Good work ...!
Raoul Ciao
August 12, 2012 12:40 pm
interesting that the Dawn paper is discussing the real issues behind the stagnating Indian governance by government as both key Treasury and Opposition see an impasse ahead...... Interesting too that Pakistanis don't react to this article, as they would actually see a lot more into the REAL politics of BJP v/s Congress in India against their set image of Congress as a wily bunch but not acceptable as a party founded by the Bangladesh creator Indira, while BJP is seen as the Party Which Provokes the 2 nation theory ! Let us see if anyone reads and analyses from Pakistan and tries to really understand what's happening on the other side unlike the fondly held beliefs from Zia's times of indoctrination.
kris
August 12, 2012 6:08 am
It is always pleasure to read Akbar's column. Very convincing logic, unlike Naqvi's.
p kumar
August 12, 2012 1:07 pm
because most of us except you don't know where it was first published.we only read Dawn
imran khan
August 12, 2012 6:13 pm
Agreed
Explore: Indian elections 2014
Explore: Indian elections 2014
How much do you know about Indian Elections?
How much do you know about Indian Elections?
Cartoons
E-PAPER
Front Page