The biggest critics of the nepotism in Indian politics are the educated urban middle class. People belonging to this class discuss politics – whenever they get time from catering to the consumption instincts of their families and tracking the performance of their stocks – with family, friends and even acquaintances – at any time of the day and wherever are – in bed, drawing room, coffee shop, bar, pub, restaurant, bus, train, office, …. in fact, any place that offers physical space for two or more people to sit down or even keep standing. Most of the people react vehemently to the presence of the second and third generation leaders in the families of Gandhis, Abdullahs, Singhs, Yadavs, et al. They feel that there is no reason for Rahul or Akhilesh or Omar to be in politics and be given positions of importance in the political parties that they belong to just because they are from important and influential political families.
This opposition to nepotism in politics has become all the more pronounced after a campaign was run to showcase how the PM has disassociated himself from his family and was not frequently meeting his brothers or even his mother. In these campaigns, indifference to siblings and mother has been projected as a virtue. The PM, obviously, is not expected to award out of turn work contracts to his brothers and nephews but he, certainly, does not have to put on display – and that too, probably, in an exaggerated form – his indifference to the family. Political nepotism is something that needs to be looked down upon but it is difficult to believe that for the person in power, the emotional connect and the concern that he has for his family has to be at the same level as he claims and projects to have with 125 crore of his countrymen. This is absolute nonsense.
Back to the urban middle class approach. A large number of the people from this class who have a point of view on politics and political nepotism work with the Indian family managed corporate sector. But, how is corporate leadership different from political leadership. Just as politicians have this uncanny ability to manipulate the sentiments of the electorate and get into power, businessmen invoke a sentiment with their investors by mis-informing them about the performance of their companies and declaring large dividends and retaining investor goodwill and control. Just as politicians put on the facade of honesty and end up doing things that would put even the biggest scoundrels to shame, businessmen indulge in all kinds of unethical practices and openly and vigorously participate in seminars on business ethics and corporate governance. Just as it is the ambition of politicians who have tasted power to ensure that their children move up the party hierarchy while they are still in power, it is the ambition of businessmen to make sure that their children are groomed to occupy the ‘corner offices’ whenever they become eligible for it – legally.
There is an enormous amount of similarity in the value system and operational approach of the two. In fact, there is not only similarity but synergy as well – politics would cease to be interesting if businessmen were not to join hands with politicians and there would be no major business houses if the politicians were not a tradable commodity.
At least, in politics one has the right to reject leadership but in the corporate world there is a limited scope. The quality of the leadership is dependent on the value system of the corporate patriarch and the education that he decides to impart to his heir apparent. And this, in most cases, leaves a lot to be desired. How often do we read about the 25-year-old son of a businessman who after just about finishing college in the U.S. or Europe comes back to India to be inducted on the board of a large publicly held and institutionally financed company and is appointed as its Executive Director, if not the Managing Director.
This corporate heir apparent, in most cases, grows up in luxuries that even the real princes of yesteryears could not have dreamt of. The interesting stories about the lifestyle and interests of these people in the glossy corporate journals put even the fashion pundits to shame. This young man, on his return after a two-year Western sojourn with rich memories of his off-campus rather than on-campus activities, has some inherent qualities that make him a born leader. Because he has grown up in an environment where he has seen capitalist power being used brutishly, he becomes absolutely insensitive to people and their sentiments. Complete desensitization to the value of learning and professionalism and absolute adaptability to power is something that is part of his personality. He does not have to go through any learning process. Probably, it is not required because the people in his company are competent in their jobs and just need to be directed. And, direction, according to him, is the statement of a target and not the course that needs to be taken to get there.
Efficient managers, competent strategists, and respected professionals hover around him and make desperate and obvious attempts to be on his right side. How does one feel doing all this to a person who could be their son’s age, has no exceptional professional qualities, and whose only claim to fame is his parentage? Even if it is something that they are not happy doing, they have to do it because it is part of their job to create a leader out of this rudderless young man.
The fact is that the educated and suave business executive is no better than an illiterate party worker whose full time job is to create myths about his political bosses. Even the ‘Pappu’ of Indian politics – who has become a laughing stock with almost everyone (even some Congressmen) – is far more intelligent, sensitive, and value-driven than a large number of young second and third corporate leaders who seem to have surfaced and can be seen flaunting their wealth and power. Ironically, all those urban educated middle class people who don’t want a politician’s son to become a politician, spend all their time and resources to make sure that their children take the IIT/IIM route and end up working for one of those young, aggressive, arrogant and ill-mannered corporate leader and go through the same kind of ‘humiliation linked compensation’ route that they have aspired for or gone through.
We, obviously, need better political leadership. But, people who make their living and meet their aspirations by showing spineless subservience and eulogizing their young corporate bosses – who are in their positions only because of their having inherited the control of the company – need to think whether it would be proper for them to conduct themselves like ‘party workers’ for their employers and do they have the moral right to be critical of young leaders emerging from political families.
Cartoon in Words
1.Two barely dressed and emaciated persons looking for food in the garbage dumped outside a restaurant. One of them to the another: When the Swach Bharat Abhiyan is fully implemented, where would we get our food from.
2. The Chief Justice of India in a meeting with his fellow judges: CJI: Can you please sit in groups as per your religion so that it becomes easy for me to pick one from each group to form benches for politically sensitive cases.