Modi, Indira Gandhi and “Imposed“ Chief Ministers; The electoral victories in Haryana and Maharashtra of BJP has had two consequences. All the critics of Narendra Modi had to shut up. Then the second more controversial consequence is that Modi has become an all powerful political figure in India and therefore can appoint anyone he likes as Chief Ministers. The selection of two total novices as Chief Ministers of Haryana and big economic state of India Maharashtra has caused shock and an anticipation that things will definitely go wrong. Who are Chief Ministers Manohar Lal Khattar of Haryana and Devendra Fadnavis of Maharashtra? The BJP says they are new faces, clean and generally wonderful fellows. No one has heard of them before. Neither of them has any experience in running any part of a state government. Narendra Modi might like them. But is that enough to be Chief Ministers of two most important states, where the BJP has never formed a government?
Incidentally. both chief ministers do not belong to the majority castes or social groups of their states. Mahohar Lal Khattar of Haryana is a Punjabi, where they are only 8% of the population. Devender Fadnavis of Maharashtra is a Brahmin where the Marathas jealously protect power for their community. A Chief Minister of a big and problematic State is very different from being a central Cabinet Minister. Narendra Modi can make any one a Cabinet Minister. But a Chief Minister requires many qualities to survive. Usually, a badly selected Chief Minister will destroy the party in that state. No Prime Minister can save a Chief Minister if he is not qualified.
The best chief Ministers of India have been Kamaraj of Tamilnadu, Jyoti Basu of Bengal, Govind Pant of Uttar Pradesh, Pratap Singh Kairon of Punjab, Mohanlal Sukhadia of Rajasthan, Y.B. Chavan of Maharashtra, Morarji Desai of Gujarat. All such Chief Ministers had experience, common sense and great political stature. There were as powerful as any central leader.
Political history has shown that a weak Chief Minister has ever been successful. The BJP victory in Haryana and Maharashtra is credited to Modi since there were no charismatic state leaders or standing. Modi canvassed directly and if BJP was defeated he would have risked his image. He took the risk and won. The result of the two victories in Maharashtra and Haryana was that newcomers and totally in-inexperienced people were made Chief Ministers. This meant that anyone can become Chief Minister.
In fact, this system of imposing ordinary people as Chief Ministers started way back with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1972. The Congress under her leadership won all the States. Ordinary candidates defeated political giants . There was the feeling anyone standing on Indira Congress will win. This led to a new theory that it is better to put up candidates without any experience . Such candidates after they become MLAs and MPs will not rebel and there will be no threat to Indira Gandhi. Such Chief Ministers will go on praising Indira Gandhi . They will win , keep quiet and Indira Gandhi will have no Opposition . Therefore, we would find after 1972, Indria Gandhi allowed all kinds of people to become MLAs and MPs. Not only that, even very ordinary leaders we made Chief Ministers.
Between 1972 and 1984, Indira Gandhi made people like Gundu Rao, Veerappa Moily and Bangarappa Chief Ministers of Karnataka. In Andhra, between period 1972 and 1989, there were 7 Chief Ministers. In Rajasthan, there was Jaganath Pahadia who was removed within one year. In Gujarat there were 5 Chief Ministers. In Bihar, you had Jaganath mishra, Chandra Sekhar Singh and others. In Uttar Pradesh, between 1972 and 1984, there were 6 Congress chief Ministers. The result of imposing of weak chief Ministers was that they never rebelled. But the people rebelled against Indira Gandhi because the weak Chief Ministers earned the anger of people.
Eventfully, Indira Gandhi paid a steep price for having weak chief Ministers and sycophants occupy all the big positions and after 1984, the Congresss never recovered . Usually, the least qualified are the best sycophants and they destroy the leader.
Narendra Modi should be doubly careful that he does not impose weak Chief Ministers and his cabinet with Ministers who have no stature.
Manohar Lal Khattar became an MLA for first time in 2014. He never occupied any position and is totally inexperienced. Being a Chief Minister is very difficult. Problems come up every day and he cannot run to Modi for advice on postings and local controversies. Khattar is a Punjabi and they form a small percentage of people. In Haryana, Jats are nearly 25% of population and they are united. Khattar has no rural roots. He is a city based politician.
He will have great difficulty winning over Jats and other traditional leaders. To win in Haryana, BJP got many Congress JAT leaders to defect. They won seats and helped BJP win seats. But after Khattar formed the government, no tall Jat or Gujjar leader has been made Minister . There are many pygmies but no giants. The BJP President Ram Bilas Sharma lost the last 5 MLA elections and won this time only because of help from a defector Congress leader Rao Inderjit Singh. Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj put up her sister for MLA and lost. That should clarify how powerful Haryana BJP leaders are .But after victory ,the newcomers have been ignored. A good example is Birendra Singh, who was a Congress MP and Working Committee Member . If BJP does not make him a Central minister, there will be immediate retaliation by Jats. There is also the grievance that leaders who came from other parties are not being respected by BJP.
In a small state like Haryana, when leaders rebel, there will be consequences. The BJP had all small-statured leaders who became MLAs. It might happen that Khattar is very sharp and like Kamaraj Nadar will succeed. But the social system in Haryana is going to work against him unless the BJP includes more natural leaders in government . But now Khattar might end up like some Andhra Chief Ministers who were replaced every year.
If Manohar Khattar fails in Haryana , then Modi will pay a very heavy price. There is strong opposition to the BJP, which won only about 28% of the votes.
This is the second largest State in India. Marathas are the dominant caste. Rural Maharashtra has established leaders and even with the Modi wave nearly a 100 MLAs who are established leaders won. Even in defeat, Congress and NCP got 84 MLAs out of 288. Since they split, they fared badly. The BJP has selected un-tested non-Maratha Devender Fadnavis. The Marathas are upset, but they will keep quiet . The combined MLAs of the Congress, , Shiv Sena and Sharad Pawar is about 160. Nothing is impossible in politics. These 3 parties will over-throw BJP Fadnavis if he fails.
There are also a large group of 40 Independents and other MLAs. They will move wherever power goes. Now these 40 MLAs are with BJP. But if Fadnavis fails, they will dump him. Fadnavis is no Sharad Pawar . The Congress. Shiv sena and Sharad Pawar will not be eaten up by BJP. Sooner or later, they will try to defeat the government. In 1978, Congress party formed a coalition Government with CongressR). After one year, Sharad Pawar , then only 37 years , left the Congress ( R) and joined with the Janata party and formed a government. Sooner or later, the non-BJP parties will attempt a political l coup in Maharashtra. Even the Shiv sena is aware that the BJP wants to eliminate it.
Maharahstra is a state with a social system where non-Marathas cannot dominate. The elite of Maharashtra will not accept a lower middle class non-Maratha to snatch away their power. If Fadnavis fumbles, Narendra Modi cannot save him. There are 200 cooperative Sugar factories and even now, they have sent nearly 75 MLAs from all parties. The thousands of educational institutions are run by Congress and NCP leaders, not the BJP or Shiv sena.
The job of a Chief Minister is very different from a prime Minister or Central minister. A Chief Minster is not a District collector carrying out orders. He has to decide on a thousand issues every day. Mere cunning or a broad smile is not enough. Cunning and smiles are enough for Party bosses and to get tickets . But governance is something more and it is un-likely the present new choices of BJP have it. People might say that Naveen Patnaik of Odisha had no experience when he became Chief Minister . But do not forget he was highly educated , travelled all over the word ad was a constant observer of Indian politics at highest level . His aristocratic life had also given him over-confidence . Do Fadnavis and Khattar have it ? Naveen Patnak had an aura of power.
The danger for Narenda modi is that he mgithfeel e an run the sats with chief Minsrer wowill follow him. That doe snto wrk. Mod is fast becoming like Indira Gandhi. He is the only one who can get votes now for the BJP. This is a very heady feeling . If BJP does well in Maharashtra , then Modi would become like Indira Gandhi. He will dominate the BJP totally like never before. There will be great over-confidence. The BJP will start praising him like Congressmen did to Indira Gandhi and then Sonia Gandhi. In 1976, the Congress President D.K. Barooah said “ Indira is India. India is Indira. “ .At this point, Modi will face a challenge whether he should become like Indira Gandhi, which means that he and the BJP will certainly fail eventually.
Already, Ministers in his Cabinet are flattering him. Just as Modi has cracked down on in-effective leaders , he should avoid encouraging Indira Gandhi style sycophancy . Modi has to make his choice. No leader has survived sycophancy, which is slow poison.
There is also the danger of Modi becoming stale. This is only the early stages of India learning about Modi. For some time, people will watch him eagerly on TV and read about him. But excessive exposure in media will eventually make him like Rajiv Gandhi, whom the public started hating after two years in office. Sycophants will tell him that he has great charisma and if only he canvasses, people will vote for BJP anywhere in India .Yes, they will vote only once. But after that , they will vote against him. A leader coming on TV every day loses it. He becomes ordinary and people start having contempt for him.
Modi can avoid these dangers and have a longer political life if he carefully avoids sycophancy and avoids becoming overexposed in the media. The third danger for Modi is to think that oratory will win him elections. The best orator in the world today is Barrack Obama and yet no one wants to hear him now. He has become a figure of contempt in the USA and around the world he has lost respect. Modi should watch how American president Obama is now un-popular in USA. Thomas Malthus, the great population economist, first talked of the “Law of Diminishing Returns“ in 1813. The law is valid even after 200 years and Modi should note it. Anything excess causes a stomach-ache.
When one is successful, one has to be careful. Modi should avoid adopting the Indira Gandhi model of appointing Chief Ministesr, avoid sycophants and avoid becoming over-exposed. His enemies will try to ensure he becomes addicted to such weaknesses.