Modi’s lack of leadership is not what the country expectedby Opinion Express March 9, 2019 0 comments
While the entire nation is proud of our servicemen, it is disgraceful that the political leadership has been away from answering questions about the strike.
India, last Friday, welcomed its IAF hero, Abhinandan Varthaman, back from Pakistan, after he spent close to three days in Pakistan’s captivity, after his MiG-21 Bison went down in a brief skirmish with Islamabad’s Air Force. Officer Abhinandan’s return is the latest course of events in an episode that has not yet seen its last act but India can at least momentarily heave a sigh of relief. His return also provides us with enough pause to examine the events that unfolded over the past few weeks, to praise the bravery of our armed forces and to ask questions to the Prime Minister, who is the man entrusted with providing leadership to the armed forces.
Primarily, in this article, I aim to examine the concept of leadership and whether the Prime Minister demonstrated it this time around. While the entire nation is extremely proud of our armed forces and the huge sacrifices they are regularly asked to make, it does make it all the more important to ensure that they are led by a political leader who exhibits similar qualities. The events of the past few weeks make it apparent that while the country is proud of the armed forces, the political leadership leading them has been found wanting.
So what is leadership? Norman Schwarzkopf defined its as, “Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without strategy.” Over the past few weeks, the ruling Government has displayed a lack of both.
Lack of strategy: Pakistan is a hub of terror. There are not many people in the world who would disagree with this statement. Even recently, while Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan did earn some goodwill on the world stage by allowing Abhinandan to return and by ensuring that he was not mistreated while in Pakistan’s captivity, much of that goodwill was wasted by the clear propaganda videos that were released by the Government over there. During the entire ordeal, Imran Khan alleged that the attack by India on the terrorist camps did not really cause any harm to Pakistan. He also garnered sympathy and goodwill from world leaders by taking the initiative to return Abhinandan to India.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi allowed Pakistan to take the initiative by not speaking to the nation in its hour of need and failing to rebut Pakistan’s claims that there were no casualties due to India’s strikes. This was especially shocking since members of the BJP like Sambit Patra have said that close to 400 terrorists were killed while BJP chief Amit Shah said that 250 of them were killed. Instead of giving a fitting reply to Pakistan and reclaiming the initiative, Modi, as someone who rarely gives up an opportunity to speak, remained silent on this crucial issue and, therefore, let slip an opportunity to prove Pakistan and the world media wrong. By doing so, it was the Pakistani Prime Minister who appeared to garner greater admiration from the world rather than our Prime Minister.
Character: In terms of character, the BJP Government has an unenviable lack of it. There have been repeated reminders over the past few years of this character flaw. Whether it is the words used by the Prime Minister to describe women or the language used by the BJP when dealing with any member of the Opposition, the Government rarely covers itself in glory. However, in light of the recent events, there was some hope that maybe the Prime Minister may actually conduct himself in a manner befitting his role and get the entire country together. How naïve of us! Despite the Opposition issuing a statement reiterating their stance that they stand behind the armed forces, Modi repeatedly took political potshots without once addressing the nation in a dignified manner.
While the Prime Minister is often found near a microphone when the wind is in his favour, he is conspicuously missing when the nation actually needs answers. This time, too, he addressed a number of rallies when India’s brave Air Force attacked the terrorist bases in Pakistan, taking credit for the bravery of our armed forces but the minute one of our pilots was captured and there was a need for calm, clarity and composure, there was not a whiff from the Government or the Prime Minister. Instead, in the aftermath of Abhinandan’s capture, just a quick glance of the Prime Minister’s twitter feed shows that he addressed BJP workers in their booths before addressing the nation and even then, it was only through rallies or other political events that he talked about strikes rather than having a conversation with Indian citizens, which is only apropos in case of events of national significance, such as this one.
What was all the more disheartening was the fact that while media speculation about the precarious state of affairs was rife, there was no one from the Government to answer the lingering questions. Instead, the Government chose to send the armed forces in the line of fire again and forced it to field questions that could obviously only be answered by its representatives.
As stated above, one such question was about the claims made by international media channels about the number of dead terrorists after the attack. While there is no denying that it is difficult to quantify the number of terrorists killed in the mission, it was the BJP itself that came out with wild, varying figures. The armed forces have categorically come out and said that they have no idea about the exact figure and that this was a question for the Government to answer.
If the armed forces have no clear figure in mind and the BJP has been saying it’s 400 or 250 or whatever the last person from the party has said, is it not logical to question whether the Government actually had any such estimate or was it just making up numbers as it went along?
But when one of us, mere mortals, actually asks the BJP why they are saying 400 when the armed forces are saying they have no idea about any exact figure, the party hides behind the armed forces and says that the people of India cannot question the armed forces. Waah Modiji, Waah!
My views on how a leader is supposed to be is a product of my time as an officer in the Indian Police Service. As someone who has had the opportunity to serve with other brave police officers, I was always told that you need to be the first one to take criticism to protect your officers and the last to take credit for their bravery. This is slightly different from Prime Minister Modi’s policy of hiding behind the armed forces when tough questions are asked and basking in the glory, taking selfies when the sun is shining. India, in my opinion, has had enough of Modi’s unique brand of leadership.
(The writer is Jharkhand PCC president, former MP and IPS officer. Views are personal)
Writer: Ajoy Kumar
Courtesy: The Pioneer