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Style must accompany substance: A time for transformational leadership

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It is extraordinary how quickly we believe smart slogans. Advertising and marketing are based precisely on the ability to win subscribers and getting them hooked through language and packaging. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has understood this all too well.

When he spoke of ‘aache din’, he struck an immediate chord of empathy through the contrast with the previous four years. Similarly, his call for Swachh Bharat and Digital India resonated across socio-economic classes. People were hooked. This was political marketing at its best. His ‘Make in India’ was cast in a similar mould.

But marketing gurus are also aware that advertising is not a substitute for the product. Consumers look through gimmickry because man cannot live by slogans alone. The unexpected defeat of the Vajpayee government in 2004 that rode on the crest of the ‘India Shining’ wave ought to be a sobering reminder for the government.

After 18 months of Modi’s government, for most Indians, barring the very rich, happy days continue to be illusory. The economy, which is poised to overtake China, and notch 7.5 percent GDP growth rate, owes much to falling oil prices and to a slowing down of the Chinese economy than to any economic reforms that have eased doing business in India. Taxation policies remain opaque and unpredictable and, thus, a clear disincentive for foreign investors. Even the bizarre retrospective tax, promulgated by the previous government, is yet to be amended.

Furthermore, for the aam aadmi, food prices – whether of onions or pulses – continue to rise. Social sector spending has drastically fallen, especially in health and education. At an entirely different level, even the very social fabric of India stands threatened with ministers and political allies making hugely irresponsible statements and indulging in acts of gross intolerance towards minorities, Dalits and dissenters.

While the central government can, most certainly, take the plea that in a federal polity, it cannot be held accountable for everything that happens throughout the country, it ought to stir, if not shake, the government’s conscience, especially when President Pranab Mukherjee finds it necessary to publicly remind the nation of the idea of India.

Modi’s rise to the prime minister’s post has been dramatic and meteoric. The distinct lack of leadership in the Congress has been helpful and Modi is, undoubtedly, looking at a second term. To achieve that, he most certainly needs to combine vision with strategy and decision making. If he would like India to emerge as an economic powerhouse, he needs to outline the roadmap as to how this would be achieved.

Consider his flagship ‘Make in India’ programme, as an illustrative example. The shift from ‘made’ to ‘make’ was meant to woo foreign investors to make India a manufacturing base. But neither quality assurance nor skill development received the urgency that making in India requires. For foreign investors, this is clearly a major drawback. Nor indeed has the government outlined the tax incentives that foreign investors would enjoy should they decide to make in India. Ministries continue to be unclear on the contours of the programme because it is yet to be publicly outlined to establish that it is in conformity with global trade rules. Unless there is visible clarity, the programme is destined to become a slogan.

Consider, for instance, that Japan has offered a soft loan for $15 billion to finance India’s first bullet train on the condition that 30 percent of equipment, including coaches and locomotives, are bought from Japanese firms and manufactured in Japan. Japan and Singapore, similarly, are likely to be involved in developing Amravati, the new capital of Andhra Pradesh. Undoubtedly, the financial assistance Japan offers would be linked to purchase of equipment from Japanese companies. Mercedes recently announced that it is planning an expansion of its manufacturing facility in Pune but has asked the Maharashtra government for tax concessions. More interesting is the fact that the bronze cladding for the memorial to Sardar Patel would be manufactured in China. So, where precisely would the government draw the line on making in India?

Modi’s advocacy of transforming India into a manufacturing hub can be exciting and most certainly gets us all hooked. After all, if it could happen – and there is no reason as to why it cannot – jobs would be created, foreign investment would flow in and economic growth would receive a substantial boost.

There is, however, a legitimate ‘however’. None of the above is likely unless a clear and transparent policy framework is outlined. Furthermore, the government needs focus, clarity and speed of execution. Additionally, it is important for us to be candid in our assessment of quality assurance and skill availability in India at present. No international brand is likely to stake its reputation on poor manufacturing. The series of crashes of Indian manufactured Dhruv helicopters in Ecuador and subsequent bad press demonstrates that Indian manufacturing is yet to meet international benchmarks.

As a contrast, take the case of Vietnam. It has a clear strategy on how it ought to approach its comparative advantage of a young workforce and low wages to produce garments and sportswear for international brands. Over a dozen industrial parks have come up that have already attracted considerable foreign investment. It is only a matter of time before Vietnam emerges as the next manufacturing hub in the textile sector. Additionally, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, once ratified, is anticipated to further enhance Vietnam’s international appeal. Her secret is clarity and transparency in legislation coupled with urgency in governmental execution. In short, vision is followed up with strategy. This appears to be clearly lacking in India.

The ‘Make in India’ example illustrates how the government has not backed its slogans with action, or vision with strategy. Over the past 18 months, the quality of life has not improved. Indeed, many would say that there has been a perceptive decline, especially in governance. When senior ministers and party functionaries label dissent as being ‘manufactured’ or ‘selective’ or ‘pseudo-secularism’, it only diminishes the government and, worse, it attacks the very core of democracy itself.

Modi needs to urgently recognize that his persistent silence is likely to be construed either as utter disregard for alternate voices or an inability of getting his own voice heard by his party colleagues. He can protect the stature and dignity of his chair only through an unambiguous condemnation of the incidents that are dividing the people. To be perceived as a national leader, he needs to make the transition from Chief Minister to Prime Minister.

The next elections are not that distant. While the Congress is in disarray at present and bound to the apron strings of the Gandhi household, it is not inconceivable that elections could see the party split and the emergence of a new challenger.

Modi and his team would, undoubtedly, heed the lessons of the Vajpayee defeat that slogans might win elections the first time around but consumers learn to avoid a bad product when it fails to meet expectations. It is hoped that he will demonstrate genuine leadership and translate his promises into action.

His reputation is dramatically flagging, even in the international space. As The Economist brutally put it, his governance style can now be summed up with the words, ‘Lights, camera… inaction!’ Style matters only when accompanied by substance.

Mr Prime Minister, a huge mandate was given to you to realize the aspirations of the Indian people. It can happen only when you realize that you are Prime Minister of all Indians. This lies at the core of transformational thinking and thus, leadership. Many call it the tipping point.

(Amit Dasgupta is a former diplomat and author of “Lessons from Ruslana: In Search of Transformative Thinking”, published by Harper Collins. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at amit.dasgupta@spjain.org)

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10 Must Know Facts About Subhas Chandra Bose

Subhas Chandra Bose was a true legend in every essence and one of the most decorated freedom fighters who ever fought for incredible India.

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Subhas Chandra Bose views on attaining freedom were very much different from other Congress leaders. Wikimedia Commons
Subhas Chandra Bose views on attaining freedom were very much different from other Congress leaders. Wikimedia Commons
  • Subhas Chandra Bose was a true patriot and a man of principle who left no stone unturned to bring independence to India
  • Subhas graduated with Bachelors of Arts from the University of Calcutta
  • Subhas Chandra Bose never complied with the thoughts of Gandhi

NEW DELHI: A true Indian can never forget the very famous slogan of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, “You give me blood, and I’ll give you Freedom”. His words immediately sparked the zeal of patriotism in the hearts of many Indians during the independence struggle. Even today these words are as inspiring as they were at that time. Subhas Chandra Bose was a true patriot and a man of principle who left no stone unturned to bring independence to India.

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was born on January 23, 1897, in Orissa, Bengal division. He is considered as one of the most esteemed freedom fighters of India who was the mastermind behind raising the Azad Hind Fauj. This force was created to fight the British people and was the first Indian armed force. Subhas Chandra Bose was a true legend in every essence and one of the most decorated freedom fighters who ever fought for incredible India.

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was born on January 23, 1897, in Orissa, Bengal division. Wikimedia Commons
Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was born on January 23, 1897, in Orissa, Bengal division. Wikimedia Commons

He was the ninth member of a family of 14. In January 1902, Subhas Chandra Bose joined Protestant European school. Due to his extreme brilliance and skills, Subhas Chandra Bose was admired by his principal. Subhas graduated with Bachelors of Arts from the University of Calcutta. After that, he left India in 1919 and promised his father that he will be taking Indian Civil services examination.

Also Read: 10 Facts You Need To Know About Homi Bhabha

On 19 November 1919, he matriculated from Cambridge and stood fourth overall but he didn’t pursue his job over there as he didn’t want to work under the British. Thereafter, in 1921, he gave up his dream of civil services and returned to India. Two years down the lane, Subhas Chandra Bose was elected as the president of all India youth congress and under the leadership of Chittaranjan Das. During that time only, he was also selected as the CEO of Calcutta Municipal Corporation.

He staged many campaigns against the atrocities of British rule in India and got arrested in a roundup of nationalists. After he got released from the prison, he came in contact with Jawaharlal Nehru and started working for the independence struggle. He even wrote a book named, ‘The Indian Struggle’ which was published in 1935. His book was based on the facts that he witnessed personally and the painful experiences of his fellow freedom fighters.

Related imageAfter he got released from the prison, he came in contact with Jawaharlal Nehru and started working for the independence struggle. Wikimedia Commons
After he got released from the prison, he came in contact with Jawaharlal Nehru and started working for the independence struggle. Wikimedia Commons

He was also elected as the mayor of Calcutta in 1930. He later on accepted for the Nomination of the president of India.

 

Take a look at some of the astonishing facts related to Subhas Chandra Bose.
1. Earlier in his career, Subhas Chandra Bose was the leader of the radical wing of the Indian National Congress in the late 1920s and 1930s. After taking a note of his efforts, he was elected as the Congress President in 1938 and 1939. But due to some differences with Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and the Congress high command, he has been expelled from Congress leadership positions in the very same year. Subhas Chandra Bose openly criticized Congress’ foreign and internal policies.

Also Read: 15 Facts To Know About Arnab Goswami and Republic TV

2. Being a hardcore freedom fighter, Subhas Chandra Bose came under direct threat of British government. Between 1921and 1941, he was imprisoned eleven times for his fight for complete independence.
3. Subhas Chandra Bose never complied with the thoughts of Gandhi. He believed that the tactics of non-violence would never be sufficient to secure independence and rather advocated violent resistance to secure the nation.

4. To fuel the spirit of independence, Subhas Chandra Bose visited many countries Soviet Union, Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. He requested all the country leaders to allow their alliance for securing India’s independence. It initiated his move at the outset of the Second World War and during that time, most of the nations were building their military might. Finally, with the assistance from Imperial Japan, Subhas Chandra Bose raised Azad Hind Fauj or Indian National Army (INA). Japan offered monetary, political, diplomatic and military assistance to the force. Later, the Azad Hind Fauj was stationed at Andaman and Nicobar Islands and then travelled all the way to Manipur in India.

5. On August 23, 2007, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe personally visited the Subhas Chandra Bose memorial hall in Kolkata and later met his family members also. Prime Minister Abe quoted, “, “The Japanese are deeply moved by Bose’s strong will to have led the Indian independence movement from British rule.”

Subhas Chandra Bose was elected as the president of all India youth congress and under the leadership of Chittaranjan Das. Wikimedia Commons
Subhas Chandra Bose was elected as the president of all India youth congress and under the leadership of Chittaranjan Das. Wikimedia Commons

6. Subhas Chandra Bose was successful in establishing the Azad Hind Radio station in Germany and thus stoked up the Indian nationalist movement in East Asia.

Also Read: 10 must-know facts about Anand Mahindra

7. Subhas Chandra Bose was very much inspired by Bhagavad Gita and drew a lot of inspiration from it. He was also very much moved by Swami Vivekananda and his teaching on universal brotherhood, his nationalist thoughts and his emphasis on social service and much other reform.

8. Subhas Chandra Bose views on attaining freedom were very much different from other leaders. Congress wanted to gain independence through phases of a dominion status, whereas he stressed upon complete freedom. For his will to fight for his country, he was considered as a true patriot even by some of his rivals. He just wanted freedom for his nation and he didn’t mind going to anyone for assistance.

9. After successfully clearing his Indian Civil Services examination, Subhash Chandra Bose refused to obey the custom of carrying his umbrella while meeting the Governor General at his office. He never tolerated any misbehaviour in his life.

10. Subhash Chandra Bose travelled to Germany while attempting with a daring escape from his house arrest in India. He travelled from Kolkata to Gomo by a car and from there to Peshawar by train. He then went to Kabul and proceeded directly to Germany to seek help from Adolf Hitler for India’s independence. After many attempts, he was able to speak with Hitler.

Subhash Chandra Bose travelled to Germany to seek Adolf Hitler's help. Wikimedia Commons
Subhash Chandra Bose travelled to Germany to seek Adolf Hitler’s help. Wikimedia Commons

Subhas Chandra Bose death still remains a mystery at large. As per the government report, he died in a plane crash on 18 August 1945. But this theory is refuted by many historians and scholars. In the book, “Bose: The Indian Samurai – Netaji and the INA Military Assessment”, Maj Gen G D Bakshi (retd), has pointed out that the above report was made by Japanese intelligence agencies to help Subhas Chandra Bose to make his way to the Soviet Union.

In 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met the family members of Subhas Chandra Bose and announced the declassification of files related to his life. Later on, 100 secret files were made public by the central government.