Who will be India’s Obama?

It was a terrific experience being in the US the night Obama became President-elect. This election energised people across the US – and the world. There is great hope and expectation. I wish we could say the same about India’s leaders.

Here, there is an air of resignation, of politics as usual. We need a leader who can energise us, whom we can relate to, and who embodies a vision for the New India. We need to get a large percentage of our citizens involved in the community process – which is what Obama managed to do.

So, who can be India’s Obama? We have elections happening in the next 6-odd months. We need change, but will probably not get it this time. The three choices this time are likely to be Manmohan Singh (who has disappointed more than delighted), LK Advani (let’s hope he governs as well as he writes), and a dark horse in Mayawati. I think we will have to wait a few more years before India’s Obama emerges.

What helped Obama was the Internet – in raising cash for the campaign and mobilizing millions of supporters across the country. In India, that change will come in 5-6 years with the mobile platform. But we also need leaders who can think big and put India first.
So, who will be India’s Obama? Any ideas? If I had to pick one person, it would be the Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. He is much older than Obama at 58 years, but that’s still relatively young compared to the people we have now.

12 thoughts on “Who will be India’s Obama?

  1. Rajesh, that anti muslim racist?

    He may be a dynamic business guy, but he’s no uniter like Obama.

    Indeed I’ll argue its folks like you who need to get involved…

  2. Just a Snapshot of Presidential Candidate Social Networking Stats

    Internet Usage in United States
    United States Population: 303,824,646
    Internet Usage: 220,141,969
    Penetration rate: 72.5%
    Growth from 2000-2008: 130.9%
    Stats from Internet WorldStats (Census, Nielson) Facebook
    Obama: 2,379,102 supporters
    McCain: 620,359 supporters

    Obama has 380% more supporters than McCain

    Obama: Friends: 833,161
    McCain: Friends: 217,811

    Obama has 380% more supporters than McCain

    Obama: 1792 videos uploaded since Nov 2006, Subscribers: 114,559 (uploads about 4 a day), Channel Views: 18,413,110
    McCain: 329 videos uploaded since Feb 2007 (uploads about 2 a day), Subscribers: 28,419, Channel Views: 2,032,993

    Obama has 403% more subscribers than McCain
    Obama has 905% more viewers than McCain

    Obama: @barackobama has 112,474 followers
    McCain: @JohnMcCain (is it real?) 4,603 followers

    Obama has 240 times more followers in Twitter than McCain

    I agree with Rajesh, for his choice of Narendra Modi as the Next Leader for India

  3. Obama used the electronic media effectively to build his brand and channelise the tremendous support for his message of hope and optimism. A few years down the line, we might have a large number of Internet subscribers but I seriously doubt that we will have a politician who can rise above the cesspool and generate the same kind of enthusiasm among common people. The two names you have mentioned (besides the current PM who has been a massive disappointment) maybe effective campaigners and communicators and Mr. Modi can be called dynamic. However, they rely heavily on the same old strategy of divide and rule. In summary, our search for Obama is going to be a long and hard one.

  4. Hi Rajesh,

    I agree Narendra Modi is one of the better leaders we have had in our political system as long as he doesn’t play GOD (Godhra Riots) the point is that the system in Gujrat *WORKS* they have got surplus power, better roads and good/fair governance. In comparison the Metros are in a sad state Mumbai is in a horrible state I think its the people that make it survive otherwise HIGHLY overrated as a City, Delhi has improved drastically with regards to Roads and Metro and the pollution levels have dropped like crazy, at least I felt so the last time I traveled six months ago.

    I think it would be at least 7-10 years before we see a sea change of things on the political front as everyone in power is in their mid to late fifties don’t see them leaving office till then! To have a leader like Obama there has to be a paradigm change in the thought process of our politicians which is impossible with the current crop.

    10 years down it would be a different story as the majority of individuals in power would be in the age-group of 30-50 who’s sensibilities would appeal to the majority of the country who would also be of the same age group. I’m sure things will change but not anytime soon.


    Satyam Bachnai.

  5. @rahul .. please check your facts before criticizing an honest leader.
    @Bachani .. Just because opposing party accuses him of having a hand in the riots does not mean he has.

    Check the numbers in Gujarat and the affect of his leadership. Re: Uniting, he is the only one so far that has been able to unite both H and M community, both communities support him.

    I agree with Rajesh , he is one of the guys who can bring the change.

  6. Hi..!

    Please see my post on how Obama exploited social networking and how political change has happened in other Asian countries orchestrated by the smart mob using sms.

  7. I think it will take time for something of this to happen.
    In case, it happens this time, I hope its not for the sake of keeping Cong and BJP out of power. It is really bad to see alliances made and broken for the power

  8. The parilamentary system in India makes it very diffcult for some one like Obama to become PM in India. Obama was virtual unknown just a few years ago. He was not even a US senator (he was a state senator) 4 years ago. He couldn’t even get into the democratic convention 8 years ago. The US presidential system allows someone like Obama to go directly to citizens and beat connected people like Hillary in the primaries and McCain in the presidential elections. But in the parliamentary system people can’t directly elect an individual. You need to be an insider to become a PM so the change can not come from out side like US. That is a big problem.

  9. Dasher in the comment above makes an important point. There is a major distinction between the Indian and American variety of electing the leader.

    In the US, there are checks and balances. It is possible (though not always true) to have a democratic congress but a republican president (and vice versa.) In India, the executive branch and the legislative branch are from the same party (or parties.)

  10. We can get India’s Obama in the next lok sabha election. Weired it seems ?? Nope…I am not kidding.
    Our media TV/Newspaper/Internet/mobile/say to a women/all are collectively more powerful than U.S. media. Only thing we need to have is a simple marketing strategy just like when we launch new products etc. Corporates do it more nicely..an example, few years back Reliance mobile was introduced and now it is among top operator in Indian telecom, there are soo many success stories every corner. All this means we are not short in resources but short in vision. We need to elect all lok sabha candidate with qualifying criteria minimum MBA ( since they will run the country’s business as MBA’s run corporate world ). Presently, any candidate having muscle power and/or political affiliation can get tickets from all political parties. We need to create an environment where all political parties are forced to float MBA’s.
    To start with:
    Float a political outfit focussing on development and corruption as the main thing. (no jaat paat).
    We need to run a campaign and call intellectuals to come together and form a forum to design a similar system for selecting candidate just like Obama’s party did in selecting him as presedential candidate. Here, we can have competent, capable, screened, candidates on merit basis in all constituencies.
    Once selected, we can run election campaign (use all media available) focusing the core issues of development & corruption.
    Present a development programme and zero corruption roadmap to the people.
    (For example: we can abolish Income Tax completely……,yes its possible and i can explain how ! many economies do not have it.)
    Let us privatise all business including railways and education.We have seen the fruits of privatisation…..telecom, automobile to name a few..as we all know Governments can only be a regulator and cannot run business.
    We can have this based on the data on income and expenditure of government.
    Launch campaign for all Obamas of India and I am sure we can change everything downside up right. Thanks.

  11. Agree about Narendra Modi! He can rock! We need a guy like that for PM; or a younger version hidden somewhere. Where are our aware/educated young people???
    It’s good to hear about citizen involvement and engagement in governance, which is what democracy is all about. Do the citizens have the time— Yes they have some time to spread what they have heard from another (Un?)informed persons. The other day I heard – why is this terroism emerging on the national & intl stage just before the elections? Our ruling party has something to do with it – they wish to create a fear scenario to fetch more votes. Citizens are free to believe this – this is democracy.
    Our media is free, even to the extent that during 26/11 (another figment of the politics, the beginning of the so called terror drama) so much went on unwanted and unedited per any civilised government media’s decorum. There was no show of any govt. control over this national calamity (if it indeed was, and was not made up as those people I hear insist…); good governance includes crisis management and media regultion. Making everyone happy has become the habit of the coalition governments – this and in the past. What India needs is a strong win win for a single party – or a learned, aware and capable monarch to take over the reins of this beauty to ride it to greater heights. India Jai Ho! Right Technology tai ho, best electoral victory ka na bhai ho.

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