Leaders can tread the road to popularity

By Sudhansu R Das

Democracy in India gives immense scope to political leaders for gaining lasting popularity. A passion to improve the living condition of the majority of people, political will to ensure the effective end use of development funds, an economic sense to choose India specific infrastructure projects, human sensitivity to feel the pain of the majority of people and a deep understanding of India’s rich economic diversity etc will make the leader popular even after his death.

The Ramayana describes how prince Rama transformed himself into a noble king after spending 14 years in forest, hills, villages and ravines. He had experienced the problems faced by his subjects in day to day life. He took the pain of living in a cave, in a hamlet and in extreme weather conditions. He had learnt the importance of plants, animals and birds in human wellbeing; he came to know the skill and creativity of his countrymen, their bravery, simplicity and honesty.

Lord Rama had learnt from nature, from simple village folk and he had learnt state craft from his arch enemy Ravana because he had buried his ego. All these things contributed to his becoming a good king; he became the embodiment of good governance. The Ramayana teaches how to become a good king with a human heart. Aspiring politicians can emulate the path of Lord Rama to get long term popularity. ga

Young aspiring leaders should take up padyatras and live with people in villages and valleys to understand their day to day’s problems. Indian voters actually get a darshan of their leaders during election time. This situation will work as an advantage for new leaders who can walk through the cities, small towns, villages, lanes and bylanes to interact with people.

If low cost padyatras become a regular habit and are taken with a good motive the leader is bound to win the confidence of people. One need not spend huge money at the time of election.  Once people feel the leader has a clear sense of purpose, they will wholeheartedly support the leaders. Mahatma Gandhi became a mass leader because he walked through the lanes of cities and villages, lived with common man and wore like common man. His padyatras let him know about the indigenous people and their small economic activities.

In fact, padyatras only will not win the election; it will paint the leader as a clueless robot unless the leader shows genuine interest in understanding people’s fundamental problems and learning from people how to solve it. When leaders start learning from people, they win their hearts and no power on earth can stop the leader from winning the election. After the British ruined India’s domestic economy they imposed salt law which was a crushing blow on Indian poor people who eked out their income from selling salt.

Before the salt movement Mahatma Gandhi was staying in a small village of Balasore where the villagers used to collect salt from the sea. The villagers told Gandhiji how they suffered after the British banned the collection of salt. It moved Gandhiji’s heart and he picked up the idea of the famous Salt Satyagraha. A kind heart and moral courage always inspire the leaders to do good for their countrymen.  This was an example of true patriotism. Gandhiji was a prolific writer and his passion for details drew him closer to the issue.

If the leader is committed to his purpose, she or he will take pain in documenting the day to day’s problems faced by people.  For example, if the road in a locality is repaired three times in a year and gives immense suffering to the residents, it becomes a pertinent issue. A clear documentation of the loss of life, damage to human body and vehicles due to bad roads and the expenditure leakage on road construction and repair can become a political brahmastra in the hand of the leader.

Bad roads in Hyderabad give immense suffering and cause huge loss to people. The five kilometer stretch of the national Highway between Suchitra Circle and Kompally in Hyderabad has two horizontal road cuttings of six inch wide and six inch deep. Everyday these two road cuts damage hundreds of vehicles and injure people. It is impossible for the drivers to notice the road cuts from the speeding vehicles. For about one month these wide cuts are not repaired and this happens to a national highway.  

It is very sad that aspiring leaders do not collect hard facts from their constituency in a dedicated manner and depend on feedback from others. This lethargic attitude comes on the way to winning the election. Hundreds of lakes, agriculture fields, open space, play grounds, ponds and heritage buildings are being converted into concrete structures which choke the cities, cause diseases and adversely affect the physical and mental growth of children.

An environmentally degraded city boosts the hospital sector due to increase in lungs and heart related diseases; it siphons away the hard earned money of the majority of people and causes immense damage to the economy as middle class, lower middle class and poor people find it difficult to create economic assets. Road accidents due to potholes and bad road conditions erode people’s income and give profit to the hospital sector.

If the aspiring breed of young politicians can collect minute details of water bodies, open space, heritage sites, religious places, air quality, ground water level, water pollution and can estimate people’s loss due to environmental degradation, it will work as effective tools during elections. It all depends on the leader’s capacity to collect the minute details of the issues. Documentation skill will immensely help the leaders win elections at a very low expenditure. It can dismantle the vote banks created with money power.

The majority of low income groups work hard to educate their children so that their children won’t fall into poverty trap.  High cost of quality education, private hospital facilities, housing and nutritious food erode away the surplus income and push a large number of people into debt traps. Aspiring leaders can do door to door surveys to know whether the children in their locality are getting quality education,  health care and proper nutrition at an affordable cost. Door to door surveys should be ongoing and should not be done during election year as it will send the wrong message to people.  

If both ruling and opposition party politicians work hard to achieve quality education and health care at an affordable cost, it will give them immortality; they will be remembered even after their deaths. If any political party makes a serious attempt to free India from food adulteration, it will be the biggest achievement for the country which will catapult the leader into the height of popularity. Good aspiring young leaders can cash in on the opportunity to build political careers with professional skill, documentation skill and human sensitivity.

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