3M ‘democratic dictators’ of India who have a mind of their own

In his first election rally in West Bengal last week, Congress president Rahul Gandhi attacked Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, accusing her doing things her way without consulting others.

Without taking Mamata’s name, Rahul said “She neither talks to anyone nor takes anybody’s  suggestion. She does whatever she feels like. Does Bengal not have any voice? Bengal is being run by just one person. Should one person be allowed to run an entire state?” he said at a rally in Chanchole.

Well, Mamata is not alone in this. There are two other leaders constituting a trilogy of 3 ‘M’s – Mayawati and Modi – who neither listen nor talk to fellow partymen for suggestions.

The three have a mind of their own making them totally unpredictable. Fear is often the key.

Mamata runs the state and her party with an iron fist. She sets the rules even if they are chaotic, changes them at her whim and fancy, and brooks no opposition.

The other lady in the group, Mayawati, the Behenji of Uttar Pradesh, is no ‘behen’ (sister) to anyone except, probably, to her ego. She takes all the decisions, partymen dread her and, like Mamata, she is a one-woman army. She too is unpredictable and can change decisions and alliances in a jiffy.

But unlike Mamata, Maya has an eye on Delhi; specifically, the PM chair. Mamata is reluctant to leave Bengal and move to Delhi knowing well that the moment she does that, an aggressive BJP and hungry-for-revenge Communist Party (Marxist) would make life miserable for the Trinamool.

Maya has no chair to protect in her state. Her voter base is solid and she could easily move over to Delhi and further shore up her party in Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere. Unlike Mamata, Maya has started spreading her wings to other states including the south. However small, her Bahujan Samaj Party has set up outposts in Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra, apart from the Hindi belt, trying to rally the splintered Dalit votes together.

That brings us to the third ‘M’ – Modi, who runs the party and the government his way. What Rahul Gandhi said of Mamata is applicable to Modi too – he neither talks to anyone nor takes anybody’s suggestion. He does whatever he feels like. And, as Rahul wondered, should one person be allowed to run an entire state, in this case the entire nation.

From demonetisation to GST, from foreign affairs to new schemes, it is Modi who takes all the decisions and also announces them with fanfare. Ministers are just either implementers of Modi’s decisions or, like Sushma Swaraj whose role is to rescue or help people in distress through posts on Twitter.

The rather infamous saying ‘India is Indira and Indira is India’ that eulogised Indira Gandhi to a larger than life status is also applicable to Modi. He is the party, the government, the decision-maker and does not entertain any opposition.

In fact, Modi has more than just streaks of Indira Gandhi; he is one above.

It is probably for the first time that the BJP and its ideology pace-setter, the RSS, have been relegated to the background.

One may argue that India needs such leaders as too many voices, like too many cooks, can spoil the ‘broth of democracy’.

But that is debatable, though the world over, leaders who have a mind of their own have started emerging where the dividing line between democracy and dictatorship often blurs. US President Donald Trump and his counterpart in Philippines Rodrigo Duterte are two such examples.

The 3 ‘M’s have started spawning clones. K Chandrasekhar Rao, the Chief Minister of Telangana, and Pinarayi Vijayan of Kerala are people who set the agenda and rule in their way. In fact, in Telangana, the campaign is for casting every vote for KCR, not the candidates. Former chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, late NT Rama Rao, possessed the bloated belief that he was the state, cabinet and the party.

The late Bal Thackeray too was the unquestionable presiding deity of the Shiv Sena.

Is the future for such strong decision-makers who can push through policies without negotiating  through a maze of divergent voices or opposition? It is a double-edged sword with some saying that the future is for ‘benevolent democratic dictatorship’.

Lord Acton, a British historian of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, had a warning that should ring a bell: power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.

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