How do our political leaders, ministers engage with us - the public? The young guns do it through an impersonal stupid one line templated response from their Blackberry. Which amounts to minus zero engagement. In fact works dramatically in an opposite manner – only if they’d understand the damage they are doing themselves and their reputation! The older leaders try to engage the masses through their blogs which continue to have a personal motivation and an agenda. Once again amounting to nothing for the masses given high illiteracy levels in our country.
And if none other vehicles of communication work then a press conference is called for to wash dirty linen in public! No matter what questions get shrieked at them, they only give information single mindedly on what they would like to provide ammunition for. There is no two way speak, in this great democracy of ours. Do you remember a scenario where you have had a two way dialogue with any of these leaders?
And I don’t mean touching them or shaking their hands post the Bombay attacks or during a rally! I mean a dialogue, a conversation, a meaningful point of view which us masses have absorbed, analyzed, understood and have related to?
Indian leaders’ direct communication begins and ends with that great ‘tamasha’ called the election. The moment the vote is counted and government formed, they build impregnable fortresses around themselves. No Indian Prime Minister has ever organized a town hall kind of a meeting and took questions from the public in the middle of a raging national crisis or controversy (remember Obama on the Jay Leno show?).
When did our Prime Minister ever explain the various stock market scams to us directly, in terms that you and I can comprehend? Dr Manmohan Singh was famously dismissive of the biggest scam that first broke the trust of the small Indian investor in 1992, saying he “did not lose his sleep” over the plummeting BSE Sensex, which, until then, was hawked incessantly by his government as the emerging middle class’ big ticket to prosperity.
Why do our political leaders shy away to connect with this country’s people? A case in point was the nuke deal crisis that threatened to force an early election on the country. The deal resonated favorably, at least with urban India, but all that the PM did by way of reaching out was to shadow box. The party spokepeople – now they are a tenacious breed! Ravi Prasad, Jaitley, Kapil Sibal, Amar Singh – fantastic shadow boxers! Infact they have an alternate career if they ever decide to give up ad libbing! They have mastered the art of rhetoric, interruption, finger pointing on TV shows- they behave like the lotus flower. All the ‘keechad’ is around them viz their opponents from rival political parties. They themselves are the beautiful Lotus flower which blooms, does its work remaining agnostic to the ‘keechad’! Don’t we really wish!
On the other hand irrespective if you hated it or loved it, The India Today Conclave pulled off a high decibel conclave showcasing international political stars and villains all on the same platform. Look high and low on TV do you find a single show of equal nature and stature for our prime ministerial candidates to make an appearance on? Ok lets not even debate this… they can honestly come on any show and we will allow the likes of Arun Purie or Arnab or Prabhu Chawla to field questions at them
But- they shy away. Its alright for Advani to challenge Dr Manmohan Singh today. If the situation was reversed I assure you not even Advani would take the centre stage who seems to be roaring like a Tiger from within his den with no purpose. Its time these guys realized we are an intelligent people who understand whats at play in Politics. And no amount of fake talking or hoodwinking can take away their credit if they have done substantial work in the development of the nation, or the demerit if they speak mere hollow words.
Sure the big question remains - will they ever come live on TV? In a debate? Highly unlikely – neither will the challenged nor will the challenger, you figure who’s who in this great democratic, hollow power play that seems to be unfolding with some fervour in our country!
When a nation is in troubled times, be it the security of the country or the economic meltdown, be it the Satyam scam or the problem involving criminals in politics, when it is about hate speeches or about paani, sadak, bijli for the aam janta - our leaders, political leaders need to be able to differentiate between the real problems and political wolves and find a way to wrest a communication pathway with the public and reassure them the nation is in steady hands, hands that are not daunted by the challenges. Our future leaders need to display a show of courage that despite the humungous problems facing the nation “together” we will keep our wits and diversity and secularity intact and still be able to ride the wave of development and grow at a frenetic pace.
That’s a leader you want to leave the country in the hands of. That’s the leader you want to vote for. How difficult can it be to talk on a subject they have spent 70, 80 plus years of their life on?