Posted on 17-04-2011
Filed Under (POLITICS) by Shombit

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From Discomfort Zone column by Shombit Sengupta in Financial Express and Indian Express

When you buy Pantene shampoo, you as a consumer don’t care about P&G’s enterprise culture, who does its R&D, Marketing, Operations, or the CEO’s name. The first benefit you single-mindedly seek is quality. Does it clean more efficiently, give lower hair fall, better hair growth than others? For the brand, repeat purchase is all that matters in the free economy’s humungous competition. Will consumers remain loyal to the brand after 3 purchases? Will consumers continue to purchase it even after several years of usage? In West Bengal, the common man on the street looks at political parties exactly like they check Pantene shampoo’s performance vs. competitors like Dove.

Different political parties have tried to establish their ideologies since our 1947 political independence. However, these ideologies are barely known except as broad-brush left or right wing politics. The public takeaway is only their different political leaders. In most cases in India, a single political personality drives a party, and then bequeaths his leadership power to his family, generation after generation.

Today’s West Bengal Left Front is not following the personality formula inherent in Indian politics. Instead they promote ‘Sangathan,’ their collective political strength. The way Pantene’s internal structure is opaque to consumers, is there any need to uphold Sangathan? India’s most prominent and revered Left leader was Jyoti Basu. Similarly, Communist regimes where opposition nearly does not exist fielded personalities like Fidel Castro in Cuba, China’s Mao Zedong to Chou en Lai, and different generations in Russia, Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev, Gorbachev to Putin. Cadres may want ideal Sangathani power of multiple party leaders, but the public loved Jyoti Basu not because he was head of his party but for his charismatic connect as a leader.

Like the steps P&G takes to build Pantene, with single focus Trinamool Congress has propped up their leader’s personality for relevance and quick connect to mass appeal. Gandhiji came to build his career as India’s mass leader. He chose the loin cloth with wooden sandals to create his brand. In trying to become the defender of Bengali masses, the TMC leader already has her inherent, no-frills attire. Such elements count in people’s mind. Voters may press the electronic ballot button on a symbol, but in a democracy, they decide their candidate in advance. Her mass leader image has worked tremendously as observed from TMC’s winning results in the last 3 Panchayat, Parliament and Municipality elections in Bengal. After Jyoti Basu, the Left Front, due to its Sangathani attitude, has not pressed the button on a single focus representation for the party’s connect to the public. So a bird’s eye-view on recent Bengali leaders may willy-nilly feature Dr BC Roy to Mr Jyoti Basu to Ms Mamata Banerjee. The Left Front, not exploiting its heavyweight, 34-year rule with a charismatic mass leader with an offensive leadership stand, is being subjected to aggressive volleys of attack.

Everybody expects this forthcoming assembly election to be a neck-to-neck battle. The masses say it’s like Durga puja festivities minus the devotion. The disgraceful difference of course is that nobody dies during Puja, but election fever is killing young people and creating hate. The public would love to experience politics of collaboration, where both the ruling and opposition parties cooperate towards a consensus mode for Government functioning.

To find out which party is saying what, an American-style TV debate between the two major party leaders with an unbiased, non-political anchor would be most welcome. In most TV debates nowadays everyone talks, rather shouts, simultaneously. Is that intentional to confuse the masses? It’s unlike traditional Bengali Torja banter where the opponents creatively repartee. Today all you hear is screeching nastiness. TMC attacks the Left Front saying they’ve undemocratically only favoured Left-wing ‘harmads’ (euphemism for tyrants, the word supposedly originating from Spanish Armada) without bringing any development for 34 years. The Left attacks TMC to be operating without people’s ‘sangathanic’ consent, at the whim of the Union Railway Minister who neglects her all-India portfolio only to spend time in Bengal making false, invalid promises that’ll never fructify. In contrast, the world’s no. 1 shampoo Pantene has Dove and others as competitors, but all are ever vigilant to retain consumer loyalty by listening to them. When international brands work harder on product quality, the consumer is the ultimate winner.

The Top-Two TV debate can reveal the leaders’ appetite for politics of collaboration. Through civilized debate the two high powered parties can make people understand their election manifesto. After the elections, ruling party needs to get opposition support to develop the state and maintain peace, law and order. More than ever, both parties should agree that West Bengal needs industrialization. Through land division in their own families, most farmers now own 2 acres or less and make only about Rs 40,000 per year. Can the Government help them? One way is to demonstrate ways to increase revenue to at least Rs 120,000 annually. Another is to convince land owners to sell at a good evaluated farmland price for setting up industry for generating crores of rupees. Someone in the seller’s family should get job assurance from this factory.

No economic development has happened anywhere in the world with agriculture alone. Industry is a state’s economic backbone. The biggest cause of Western society’s recent recession was losing their country’s industrial base, outsourcing services and depending on their financial institutes only. West Bengal has to have land to invite industries. Without development, Bengali children will never experience the value of the state’s treasures, from tea plantations to viewing world famous mountains, landing in a natural seaport, from mineral resources to rivers to wonder-of-the-world Sunderbans. The state with its youth talent has every potential to be one big business hub of South East Asia. It’s upto the political leaders to guide and show the way through mutual cooperation rather than opposition.

To download above article in PDF individualism vs cadre

Financial Express link :http://www.financialexpress.com/news/individualism-vs-cadre/777110/0

(2) Comments   


meher on 19 April, 2011 at 2:37 pm #

Dear Shombit,
This is such a interesting piece and when i extrapolate this thought to corporates i see it fit so well. Where consensus decision making is time consuming and since the responsibility is not of a individual desired result is not achieved.


what are vitamins on 5 April, 2012 at 12:36 am #

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