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That Man With The Golden Touch

Leaders must constantly evolve and show the way. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.If a leader believes and has prepared his followers, the followers will believe.

Photo Credit : PTI


King Midas is popularly remembered in Greek mythology for his ability to turn everything he touched into gold. His golden touch, or the Midas touch is used as an epithet to one who turns anything he touches to gold or as a metaphor, when one converts every adversity into success. PM Modi, time and again has demonstrated a splendid Midas touch. He has the uncanny ability to convert every adversity into good fortune, which he then cultivates assiduously into success. One would probably lose the count or the number of times he did it. He is currently riding a crest, on a song and probably can do no wrong. 

Bihar election was almost a lost cause when campaigning started, little more than a month ago. Huge 15-year anti-incumbency was staring at the face, Covid skewed the people perception with job losses and migrant crisis was waiting to derail the campaign. Nothing would awe or bamboozle him. There was a strategy in his mind that he executed to perfection. “It ain’t as bad as you think!  It will look better in the morning.  Leaving the office at night with a winning attitude affects more than you alone; it conveys that attitude to your followers” So said Colin Powell, a legendary public statesman and former US Secretary of State. PM Modi must have believed in that aphorism. 

Another gem of Powell is “It can be done. Leaders make things happen” If one approach doesn’t work, find another. During the early campaign days, when he realised that there was great public anger against Nitish Babu, no further, one found Nithish’s images on the posters. He took over the campaigning and led it from the front all by himself, beating off a spirited challenge by an opponent who was not even half his age. He would probably have won hands down, if we had aPresidential system like in US, to elect the executive leader, the Prime Minister, with the people directly electing him.

No exit poll gave even half a chance to incumbent parties BJP and JDU, (NDA) to make a comeback, predicting that the future of Bihar was with the ‘Maha Ghat Bandhan, (MGB) for the next five years. However, this was not to be at least for one individual, PM Modi. He carried on his campaign, exactly the way he imagined and unhindered by what people said or thought. He has a superb leadership with a superb instinct. Faced with a tough decision, he used the time available to gather information that will inform his instinct. He ensured his followers knew him, where he was taking them and for what purpose. To achieve the purpose, he set demanding standards and made sure they were met. Come counting day, he won against all odds. What made this possible? 

Firstly, free distribution of the LPG cylinders, done through the Ujjwala Yojana, under which women in villages got one free LPG cylinder connection was so popular that all the women folk endeared to him as his silent admirers and must have boosted the numbers on the all-important day. Even the Muslim women folk must have used this as a payback period for abolition of triple talaq. Even as these are national issues, the master craftsman weaved them into the fabric of the State, creating a narrative that hardly could be faulted. 

Secondly, the migrant labour and their travails did derail one engine, that of Nitish babu. The PM however, changed the narrative by pitching BJP as a party that will deliver even on their own, with or without JDU, letting full steam off the other engine. The people took to the gambit by rewarding with 65% of the seats he contested. This effectively offset the losses incurred on account of JDU. He also played on the people’s fear by a recital that the State would fall back on days of anarchy. He obviously thrives on the quality or power of inspiring belief through credible actions. 

This election has set off interesting possibilities. Whereas JDU did the honours of pulling the NDA vehicle in reverse, Congress seems to have done similar for the MGB. What would have been, had the BJP and RJD contested alone one to one? The numbers show that BJP would still have had an edge. Their strategists must look more closely at the people context in States and their tie-ups in future. 

Another pointer is that BJP would stand to gain if they were to contest against several parties coming together as one entity contrary to the popular belief. This however, assumes that the party has gathered enough credibility of its own among people. A splintered opposition would rather eat into each other’s voter base complicating the dynamics of a win. As a consequence, it must reassess each splinter party, its people connect points and build an alternative narrative that can reassure people that they have everything it takes on their own.

The by-polls history in the country is intriguing too. It must be a matter of research to find, why the party in power wins almost all by-polls in a State. A not so palatable blue print seems to be evolving. Manage a certain number of legislators to circumvent the anti-defection law, preferably those who do not get ministerial berths, make them defect, make them resign, hold elections again and win. Invariably 75% of the defectors win, now under a different party. Why are the people complicit in this apparent hoax play and flouting of rules? Is it not time the anti-defection law is reviewed?     

What lessons are there for the opposition in the Bihar story? For one, the Congress must reassess its options, regroup with passion and purpose and instil a sense of urgency in its party restructure. Rebranding and building credibility must be priority one. A national party that has ruled for over 50 years cannot for ever, be a part of a coalition of smaller parties for eventually, those smaller parties would grow big and post a challenge eroding whatever bargaining power they might have. They must be brought on the same side or face complete annihilation.   

Unfortunately, like the US has shown that it is a deeply divided populace in the recent national elections, even the Indian populace are deeply divided on the basis of caste, religion, language and so on and so forth, which has given rise to a multitude of parties each with their own specific interests. The internal fallacies and the fault lines within these parties and the ambitions of their leaders notwithstanding, we may still see them coming together, but the Bihar election has shown that such coming will be fraught with diminishing returns. Going into the future, the farmer crisis and its supposedly game changing solutions offered by various parties, from complete loan waivers to crop insurance to even cash being deposited into their accounts, the crisis of finding Jobs for youth and reviving the economy will hold centre stage. Leaders must constantly evolve and show the way. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.If a leader believes and has prepared his followers, the followers will believe. Then the  results will follow.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Dr. S.S. Mantha

Former Chairman of AICTE, Dr. Mantha is an eminent academician. At present, he is Chancellor KL University and Adjunct Professor, NIAS, Bangalore.

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