In the aftermath of the results of the State Assembly polls, one thing is very apparent. Not only does the BJP have the leadership, but also the party machinery to win elections. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah provide the air cover, leaders at the local level mop up the rest. The organisation is ambitious, and sees its goals being realised by victory at the polls. The problem with the fragmented Opposition is while they talk about winning, the will to win seems lacking. The lustreless party machinery seems so happy walking on a treadmill that goes nowhere, that the parties are going nowhere.
Today, most parties -- Congress, DMK, AIADMK, SP, BSP, Shiv Sena, MNS, SAD -- are facing the same problem: a mass exodus of talent because organisations, that were once mass based, have concentrated all the power and decision-making in the hands of a few stakeholders, their families and close associates. Merit has little place, and decision making is dependent on the whims of those at the top. As such, there is no reason, why someone who is ambitious would want to join any of the parties that have gotten rejected at the polls.
From the outside, it seems like they have not just lost their way, and are meandering without either a purpose or a goal, they don't have the will to find either. Regional parties, and the Congress, are facing a crisis, not just because of those who lead them, but because the organisation itself doesn't have enough people, hungry enough to succeed. The Modi wave washed away other parties because the parties have ceased to have a solid foundation of ambitious leaders at the constituency level.
One of the characteristics that separates humankind from the rest of our cousins in the animal kingdom is aspiration and ambition. Aspiration is when we hope for a better tomorrow, and use all our talents and resources to achieve it. Most, if not all, of humanities technological advances -- since the invention of the wheel -- have been about making life better. On the other hand, ambition is when we not just hope to be better than ourselves, but better than others too. The desire to wield power, to do better -- to bring about change is what has brought about monumental political change through the millennia.
It is a combination of aspiration and ambition that makes the world progress. When we join an organisation or start one, both personal aspiration and ambition drive us. What we look for, in an organisation, in addition to income, is a sense of shared values, belonging, and whether it lets us meet our aspirations and ambitions. There are many for whom the meeting of personal aspirations is enough. Then there are those for who professional ambition is important. And they are usually those who lead organisations in troubled time to victories over competitors, or reduce the extent of loss by their very energy and drive.
For every organisation it is important to have a mix of the two. Too many people who look for only personal aspirations to be satisfied, and you will have an organisation that stagnates and dies. Too many with professional ambition, and the organisation will be torn apart under the strain of the competing ambitions. But the need for a few good ambitious leaders is necessary. Organisations will only get a good flock of those with professional ambition, and drive, joining them, when the individuals see scope of rising within the organisation. And, for that the organisation must be a meritocracy.
This is where all political parties in India face a challenge. Families, and their loyal retainers, have taken over parties, permeating every aspect of the political machinery. Where talent and merit are secondary, then there will be an exodus of both out of the organisation. Where promotion is based on a court culture, you will have decay, and unless the party organisations take serious action, they are going to implode into insignificance. To have a chance at winning, Parties must allow ambitious youngsters to join them, and nurture them in their career to the top. This is what any organisation worth its salt does. Because they know that organisations can only grow and thrive, when there is fresh blood to inject it with new ideas and new energy.
This is exactly what the losing parties need to do. Allow talent to rise. Allow merit to be rewarded. In this day and age it cannot be about the whims of ruling families. It must be about the organisation.
(Harini Calamur is a writer, teacher and film-maker)
(Writer tweets at @calamur)
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