The Maharashtra Government Has Treated This As A Humanitarian Crisis: Priyanka Chaturvedi
Indian politician and Rajya Sabha MP from Maharashtra and Deputy Leader of Shiv Sena, Priyanka Chaturvedi, in conversation with Dr. Annurag Batra, Chairman & Editor-in-Chief BW Businessworld, Jyotsna Sharma, Sr. Editor, BW Businessworld and Abhinav Trivedi, Managing Editor, BW TV & Digital about leadership, women empowerment and the Maharashtra government’s efforts to mitigate the effects of the deadly Covid-19.
How does it feel to be a Member of Parliament?
I am proud to be representing Maharashtra as a Member of Parliament at Rajya Sabha, chosen by Shiv Sena. It is a huge responsibility for me as well as an honour. There are a lot of ideas that I have, a vision of how I would want India to grow and Maharashtra to be the biggest contributor in India’s growth story. These are some ideas I would like to present in the parliament and wish to make a tangible difference to India and contribute as a citizen of India. Being young also gives you additional responsibility of being able to understand the challenges that the youth of our country face. For the women who look up to women leaders, hope to speak up for them. I hope to do justice.
What according to you are the qualities of a good leader?
I think when we speak about leadership it is about understanding what people expect of you, and being able to live up to that. At the end of the day, if you have been able to make a difference in even two lives, it means you have the talent to be called a leader. Honesty of intent is equally important. When you put your heart and soul into something, leadership comes on its own. The third most important factor is that every leader should have the ability to listen and stand up for oneself. I have always stood up for ideas I believe in. People see honesty and transparency in whatever I bring to the fore, which I think is extremely important in leadership. It is not important for a leader to be aggressive and ruthless. Humane and a sensitive approach is what I have always believed in.
Throughout the world, there are women leaders who have done so well. In the kind of time we live in do you think there is a need for more women leaders for the qualities they provide?
There is a very definite path that the women leaders end up following. And that path has a more humanitarian approach to the crisis, more inclusive understanding of issues that exist. Listening is a very important tool for any leader and we have seen men usually doing the ‘we know what we are doing’ thing but women would not do that. They would hear you, really see you and these are some reasons why women are more sensitive and humane, less aggressive, better listeners. Most importantly, women who are political leaders have come up a hard way- they have struggled through their journey. In politics, you have to prove yourself and be above the mark.
You started your journey with a communication company called Empower, what is the role that media has played in your journey. How do you see the role of media in the current scenario of the Coronavirus pandemic?
I started to Empower as a human resource consultancy firm. Because I was in the media myself not of news variety but of the entertainment variety. I understood the challenges which existed during recruitment. The HR was disconnected with what the media agency was expecting from a particular profile. Empower started from there and then went on to PR consultancy and communication. In terms of media playing a role in my political journey, it has played a very positive and impactful role in my career.
I come from totally non-political family background. I had a huge interest in politics but did not know how to take those first step towards it. Social media platforms such as Twitter opened up that entire space for me. It led me to communicate with people directly, to be more aware of how politics works and how narratives work. I went on to become a communications person- a national spokesperson for a political party. I realised that the way you communicate is extremely important when you are wanting to set a political narrative. You have to be positive in your approach and you have to be well-read. Your arguments need to be in shape and they need to be sharp, simple and to the point.
Personally, for me, the media has been positive and I am thankful for that. It gave me a platform to communicate- to say what I wanted to say. However, these days news media is similar to entertainment news media because it is driven by creating noise and drama to attract more eyeballs. This I feel can cause disastrous consequences in the long run simply because people will not know what is actual news and what is entertainment.
What have been the high points of your journey so far?
The high points of my journey have been when I have been acknowledged for what I have been able to contribute as a political person. The biggest happiness I get is when I am able to serve people in the way they are expecting me to serve them.
What has been the most challenging part of your journey?
The most challenging part is having to keep your emotions aside when you are walking a path which you are unsure about where you are headed to next and what is coming to you the next day. The second hardest part is people sitting in judgement and trolling you for what you do and your life being an open book. People in the Indian society need to know that there are women who are strongly opinionated, they are achievers and they cannot be judged for it or punished for it. They should only be encouraged for it.
The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc across the globe. India has done well in managing the crisis, how has the Maharashtra government dealt with a pandemic?
I think the right thing that the Maharashtra government has done is to treat this as a humanitarian crisis along with a health crisis. They did not look at it from any political prism or from a prism of religion. When you are stuck with the crisis as huge as this you need to be cooperating with one and all and keep your own political differences aside. The Chief Minister himself is a very effective communicator. He has been speaking to people and keeping them updated right from day one. The government has been extremely transparent in its conduct, in terms of numbers and testing.
What is that one quality of the CM, that has endured him to you as a leader?
The most enduring test for a person who is in politics is his ability to be patient and calm. A person who is going to be a long-term politician or a long-term leader will always be very patient and calm and that is how he will be able to reassure people of his state or city. The CM is a good communication person and speaks on issues that need to be spoken about. He is a grounded politician at heart who has the best interest of the state in mind. This is a political party that came up for the welfare of the residents of Maharashtra. There is no hesitation in figuring out the best practices and in applying them.
How is the government of Maharashtra trying to mitigate the negative economic impact that Covid-19 will have?
Just before the Covid crisis struck us, the Chief Minister was very clear that if India is moving to become a $5 trillion economy then Maharashtra will be I/5th partner in that. It will become a one trillion dollar economy. His focus was very clear. This will come through industry participation, big as well as small and medium enterprises. Unfortunately, Covid has struck, not just India but globally it is creating a huge economic crisis. Stock market falling, businesses shutting. The CM has created an economic task-force which has the best minds such as Ajit Ranade and Deepak Parikh along with a number of other renowned people. The idea is to be able to mitigate this entire issue and to make a way forward for Maharashtra. Whether it is our agriculture or small businesses, there is going to be no trade-off and we are not going to let anyone shut-down in this crisis. We understand the problems that prevail and we are also ensuring that they do not sack employees or retrench them. However, whatever the challenges that prevail, we will handhold most businesses and will ensure that they are back on their feet again.
In regards to the lockdown, will it be extended to a particular date?
Whatever I have been reading on social media is that all the Chief Ministers are in favour of extending the lockdown. We also need to understand that the economy cannot be in suspension forever.
What are the learnings from this crisis for us as a nation?
In terms of learnings, India needs to up its game in terms of health infrastructure and digital connectivity. We are all digitally active but not digitally connected. What we also need is to up our game in education. I have to say, the corporate sector has stepped up and contributed, which has been heartening to see.