Foot in the mouth

It was a knee-jerk, immature, politically imprudent and hostile reaction, reeking of revenge by a battered ego.

The bankruptcy of ideas of the Congress party, so glaringly prevalent through past few years and magnified during just concluded Parliamentary elections, continues. Their communication remains dull, and at times ironical.
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The speed with which the party sycophants and those assigned the task of managing its communication hastened their attack on Ms Smriti Irani after she took over as HRD minister proves this. It was a knee-jerk, immature, politically imprudent and hostile reaction, reeking of revenge by a battered ego.

Congress failed to gauge the effect, or lack of it, of what it was going to communicate. It erred quite miserably in articulating the point of view that higher education is sine qua non of competence and performance. The party clearly failed to see that for an average Indian, high on aspiration, what matters is not your degrees and dogmas, but the passion to drive and deliver.

This Indian is betting his money big time on a person who once sold tea yet had the courage to aspire for becoming country’s prime minister. This young Indian celebrates the success of a petrol pump attendant who aspired to build a refinery of his own, and went on to build it!

 This young, aspirational Indian is loath to negativity and summarily rejects the culture of cynicism and sarcasm. For this young India, it is the heralding of the acche din (better days) in politics and governance that is sacrosanct, and for him performance is of paramount importance.

It is ironical that Congress leaders failed yet again to do their home work. Two of their own prime ministers, for whatever reasons, were not graduates as well. Indira Gandhi is considered both by many as one of the best prime ministers, and so was Rajiv Gandhi.

Their lack of qualification did not affect their competence, or performance. Sonia Gandhi is not a graduate too, yet she assumed a powerful role in the previous government.

Bill Gates, a college dropout, went on to become one of world’s biggest innovators, and created wealth which shall continue till eternity. Dhirubhai  Ambani could not attend formal schooling beyond class XII, yet his vision and talents are legendary.

These were men and women who fit into Harter’s Competence theory, which is a theory of achievement motivation based on a person’s feelings of personal competence.

 According to this, competence motivation increases when a person successfully masters a task. India has moved from typerwriters to tabs, and the metamorphosis is visible in average Indian’s aspirations. Old stereotypes and traditional idioms are giving way to new, modern norms. 

visible metamorphosis

While education surely is a passport to success, it is not the only criterion. Small traders and retailers who drive a large part of the country’s economy are the people who may not be highly educated yet are immensely pragmatic and prudent in decision making and combine this with superlative vision. Indian retailing at estimated Rs 20 lakh crore accounts for a whopping 15 per cent of country’s GDP and employs about 40 million people.

India today stands as among the tallest, and most progressive nations in the world, yet barely 6.5 per cent of its population are graduates. It has over 17 million undergraduate and 2 million graduate students – and in a population of a billion and a quarter, this is nothing but tiny. And when you consider Planning Commission’s assessment that barely 17.5 per cent graduates are employable, you begin to wonder about the utility of this degree.

Prime minister Narendra Modi, during his campaign, significantly altered the paradigm of Indian politics by seeking a vote for change. He created a narrative which while capturing the anxiety of people perpetuated by the rampant corruption and lack of governance, exposed them to a vision of a brighter India.

In a globalised, televised world, the acche din narrative of Bhartiya Janata Party soon grabbed attention, and galvanized hearts. The electoral rout of regional parties in Hindi heartland of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar amplify this.

People rode high on the yearning for a new, changing India. A sense of positive energy, buttressed by Modi’s smart and intense campaign, fuelled the desire for change. The Modi narrative took the country to the logical next level, where aspirations attracted the maximum premium.

Congress had trifle to showcase, or talk, and whatever little came out of their kitty, was insipid and uninspiring. The party failed to connect with a restless bunch of 25 milllion first time voters, who wanted the speed of light in communication peppered with new-age ideas. They liked the Twitterverse better than anything else, and preferred real aggression over feigned.

Little surprise, this vocal class, and millions of other Indians, got a rude shock when Congress made yet another silly mistake of attacking Smriti Irani. To them, this act of Congress was an extension of their jaded and at times foolish election campaign sans ideas or innovation.

In the new, altered India of 2014, old ideas and dogmas are fast being replaced by a new troika of liberalism, perestroika and modern progressivism. Cynicism has little or no place in it.

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