Next, a regional party PM?

HT Correspondent

New Delhi, Nov. 18 -- Three regional satraps, who are currently ruling Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir, are divided on whether the country's next Prime Minister should be a regional player from parties other than the Congress and BJP.

Participating in the 10th HT Leadership Summit, Uttar Pradesh CM Akhilesh Yadav suggested that the next PM should be from a regional party. However, his opinion was immediately countered by his J&K counterpart Omar Abdullah, who termed it as a "bad sign" for the country.

"Whenever that has happened, it has led to instability," Abdullah said.

Punjab deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal sided with Yadav's point of view.

During the summit, the three young leaders expressed their views on a wide variety of issues, ranging from governance, corruption and influence of family names in politics.

When asked about the next Lok Sabha elections, for which parties such as the Congress and Samajwadi Party have already begun their preparations, the three young leaders voiced different opinions. Confident of the Samajwadi Party doing well in Uttar Pradesh, Yadav said the next general elections could belong to regional parties. "The Congress and BJP should give the other parties a chance."

Abdullah of the National Conference, which is a UPA ally, strongly disagreed with Yadav. "For the country's sake, I hope this does not happen. Governments led by regional parties at the Centre have created instability in the past."

Badal, whose Shiromani Akali Dal is part of the BJP-led NDA, seemed to endorse Yadav's view. "The existing political situation of the country today is such that even the Congress and BJP are regional in nature. Look at the situation of Congress in UP, Bihar and West Bengal."

There was nothing wrong in parties other than the Congress and BJP aspiring to have a PM candidate, he added.

The three leaders appeared to have unanimous views in dealing with corruption, considering that all of them felt there was no instant solution to the deep-rooted problem. "Coalition governments are a hurdle in fighting corruption because, in coalitions, trade-offs become necessary at times," Abdullah said.

Badal said an institution such as the lokpal cannot eradicate corruption. "You have to change laws to eliminate middlemen between the government and public."

Performance over surnames

The three, however, were unanimous in their opinion that performance - not one's surname - makes for a successful politician. They said this while discussing if their family backgrounds had ensured their success in the political arena.

Abdullah said that while hailing from a well-known political family has undoubtedly helped younger leaders like him take the political plunge, the rest depended on winning the people's confidence.

"You can get your foot inside the door, but then you have to prove yourself. People want results, and you have to deliver - irrespective of what your family name may be," he said.

Yadav conceded that being the son of Mulayam Singh Yadav was a major advantage, but added, "Family gives you a headstart and identity in politics, but remember that ultimately you have to win in the court of the people and that is not easy."

Badal had a slightly different take on the issue. Comparing parties to brands, he said: "Our party has a history of 85 years, and we have turned ourselves into a reliable brand. Maybe you get the first opportunity easily, but nothing beyond it."

When asked to name his role model in politics, Badal candidly admitted that he looked to his father, Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal, for inspiration.

Abdullah, on the other hand, claimed to have a short list of role models - each for a certain quality. He named former PM AB Vajpayee as the first for his oratory, his grandfather - the late Sheikh Abdullah - for leadership skills, and his father Farooq Abdullah for his way of connecting with people.

Avoiding a direct reply, Yadav quipped that there was nothing wrong in the three leaders seeing Farooq Abdullah, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Prakash Singh Badal as their role models.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.