Saturday, August 7, 2010

Politics of mediocrity: The art of pulling down the hero

Shekhar Gupta wrote in his piece "The power to one", that a hero will be a person with no past and no greed for the future. He cited the cases of TN Seshan and JM Lyngdoh as election commissioners. However, their past records were not that good. They used their powers creatively. Manmohan Singh is a man without a past and no greed for the future. He is not able to work the way he would like to, writes K Subrahmanyam in The Indian Express.

Read the whole article here.


"In his piece, ‘The power of one’ (IE, July 31), Shekhar Gupta has highlighted the role of heroes in public service. When he argues that all it takes to transform an institution is one person with no past and no greed for the future, he is seeking people who will emerge from anonymity to perform the necessary act of heroism, and then disappear into noble obscurity."

"He has cited the examples of T.N. Seshan and J.M. Lyngdoh as election commissioners, and how they built and ensured the credibility and impartiality of the election commission. Certainly, the country owes them an enormous debt of gratitude. At the same time, one should not overlook the way the executive has tried to ensure that there will be no future Seshans, by expanding the commission into a three-person body, and making sure that no chief election commissioner gets a long enough term to strengthen the commission further."

"The same is true of our Supreme Court. While the US has had 17 chief justices in 221 years of its history, India has seen 36 chief justices in 63 years since Independence, with an average tenure of a mere 21 months. "

"The entire Indian political, administrative and judicial system has been structured to maintain the status quo."

"When T.N. Seshan and James Lyngdoh were appointed chief election commissioner and member of the three-person election commission respectively, the calculations of the powers-that-be, based on their past records could not have been that they would carry out their tasks in the spirit and style they did. "

"This interpretation of the personalities and roles of the two election commissioners is not intended to diminish the sterling roles they played. But election commissioners and the judiciary operate in constitutional enclaves which provide them a splendid autonomy, and which these two officers used creatively."

"The posts of central vigilance commissioner and director of the Delhi Special Police Establishment, to call the CBI by its appropriate name, do not enjoy that constitutionally-guaranteed autonomy. The enactment governing the CVC clarifies the limits of his supervisory functions. "

"Let us look at the irony of the situation today.That qualification of a man without a past and one without any greed about the future will not fit anyone more aptly than our prime minister, Manmohan Singh. Is he able to make the office of the prime minister what he himself would like it to be? He had to threaten to resign to get his way on the Indo-US nuclear deal, a threat he cannot hold up for every issue he wants to promote. As an accidental PM with no career in the party, his powers and ability to innovate are circumscribed. It is highly doubtful, if he had risen through the party hierarchy, whether he would have still been a man without a past or greed for the future."

"In spite of all this, there is no denying that the role of the individual is very important in day-to-day good governance. An index of good governance is the average tenure of people in important offices. Shuffling people in high offices and ensuring they do not stay long enough to assert their autonomy is the surest way of ensuring centralisation and stunting institutions. That is the state of Indian misgovernance today. "

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