Blog Past: India needs Leadership and Vision

I wrote this a year ago:

I was reading a book on India’s economic history when I started thinking about why we took the wrong policy turns we did repeatedly since Independence. My answer: it comes down to the leader at the top and his/her vision. Which, if you think about it, is not very different from what happens in the corporate world also.

A leader has great influence over the economic policy of a country. The mental models of the leader determine the direction of policy. If India has had flawed economic policy through the years, then in stands to reason that the mental models of our leaders were flawed. Also, given the position they were in, it is only a rare leader who is willing to learn and change by listening to others. Most of those around the leader are not forthcoming with dissent. As a result, what the leader thinks generally holds sway.

Look at India through the eyes of its leaders of the Nehru-Gandhi family, since they have ruled India for most of the time since Independence. Nehru had a dislike for being in anyway dependent on anything foreign, even terming it economic imperialism. Instead of integrating India into the world via trade, he cut India off through his policy of import substitution industrialisation. Indira Gandhi had a socialist bent of mind – with a focus on redistribution and equity. The outcome was all the anti-poverty programmes and various measures to ensure forced redistribution of wealth (high taxes, licence controls on big industry). Rajiv Gandhi did have some good ideas, but did not have the full understanding of the need for opening up the economy.Quite obviously, his mother was his biggest influence.

Sonia Gandhi (MMS is quite irrelevant) too has been influenced by her mother-in-law since there have been no other visible influences on her. So, we see the modern method of redistribution – take money from the middle-class and hand it over to the poor. Farms loans, NREGA, and a myriad other social sector schemes with one thing in common – handouts. What makes us think her son (or daughter) will be any different? Is this the India of tomorrow we want?

What India needs is a real leader who lives, breathes and understands development. A leader with vision who can see the future and make things come alive. Until that happens, we are not going to get out of the morass. If anything, we are digging a deeper hole and reaching a point of no return. The only two leaders who did something good were the ones who did not have the legacy of the past and the family – PV Narasimha Rao and Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.

3 thoughts on “Blog Past: India needs Leadership and Vision”

  1. rajesh forgets to mention that the leadership of all nations are influenced by the existing nature of economic and political discourse. add that to the note he has made and everything becomes clear, all these leaders were only victims of the existing discourse.

    even gandhi, by the egalitarian socialism that was pervading the english middle class.

    if you come to think of it, there can be no other way around. leaders who can over come the bias of the present are rare, and are not always well liked enough to be pushed into office.

    garibi hatao, when said, was the rage of the day…

    only nehru had some leeway in policy matters, and his influence is to be felt long past his death, in the software culture that rajesh and the others live in, in the egalitarian ethos of the cities and the middle class which over rides the parochial concerns of the villages and the suburban agglomerations where caste and naivist beliefs still make life hell for at least the downtrodden, one can go on.

    rao and vajpayee were good, only time will tell if sonia was. somehow one cannot get over the fact that had the bjp or its economic policies had a say in power, india would also have been sucked into the economic vacuum that the west is now in.

    manmohan has perhaps made india safe for capitalism than the other way round. prudence is appreciated only when its fruits are visible rather than when its application is ongoing.

    i am not being apologistic for manmohan and gang, and still feel that they frittered away a wonderful opportunity, but who knows what would have happened had we gone full steam ahead.

    optimists would say we could have taken advantage of the west’s economic turmoil, the pessimists…


Comments are closed.