In Delhi’s election in 2015, Kiran Bedi ran from the BJP side as the Chief Ministerial candidate. One of her successes in Delhi very early on in her career was, that under her leadership, even the then Prime Minister’s Indira Gandhi’s car had been towed away while it was parked in the wrong area.
The attack on Ms Bedi from her opponents was, that the person who towed the car away was not her but another police officer who worked under her. And, that narrative somehow, due to bad communication strategy, got stuck without proper pushback.
No one turned back to ask the question – if that police officer who towed that car once was such a bold and powerful man, how come you have never heard of him again? How come that guy never picked up anyone else’s car or messed with another politician (most of whom were corrupt!) again in his entire career?
On the other hand, Kiran Bedi has been known for bold work and decisive leadership throughout her career.
So, the question should really have been – did that police officer pick Indira Gandhi’s car because he knew he had a leader who would fully back him up no matter what? That Kiran Bedi’s decisive ways gave him the confidence that he could cross the line, and his boss would back him up. If you look at that officer’s career (of which you find NO other reference, as opposed to Bedi illustrious career) you may find, that it was indeed the leadership which pushed him to an act which was so unprecedented hitherto.
Apparently that officer was very bold at that time. But perhaps all his strength was snuffed out by other nameless, weak and pathetically sycophantic bosses (not leaders) he got. And he readily gave in.
This is a classic case of what a bold and strong willed leader can bring out of you. A similar question of leadership which has acted in an unprecedented manner, has arisen again now.
Decisions are about the Leadership, Stupid!
Under Narendra Modi Government, Indian Air Force has entered not just LoC, but also Pakistan International Border, and hit its targets. And, when Modi and his ministers justifiably share the jubiliation, the jealous and shamed opposition and Modi-haters gang feels slighted. In that state of being slighted, they call it “chest beating” and “tom-toming” on part of Modi.
And, then they have another interesting thing to add to their feeling of being slighted, by what Indian forces have done under Modi – “After all it was the Air Force which did it! Why is Modi taking the credit?”.
It is the same question of leadership – as was in case of that police officer under Kiran Bedi.
After all in India, the defense forces are under the control of the executive and can only do what executive allows them to.
So, the counter question that needs to go back to these Modi-haters is – If the entry into LoC and even beyond that, the Pakistan border was only and ONLY about Indian Air Force’s capability (the action was based on the capability of course), then how come it had NEVER happened till now despite so many devastating terror attacks?! Even when we knew for a fact as to who did 26/11, the Indian Airforce never entered even the LoC? Despite its plans and strategy being ready for such an action?
The answer is obvious. The leadership of the executive.
Executive and Defense Decisions: Modi took credit for his set of decisions
In democracies, specifically in the Indian democracy, the defense forces are under the control of the executive. There are very clear powers – the power to make a decision on when to go to war, on the scope of the war and its red lines and the power of purse and of purchase.
On all these the defense forces have no role in India. Executive does. What is given to the forces in terms of equipment, benefits, pay and perks is all in the hands of the executive. What can be done with what they have is in the hands of the defense forces. So, when the squadrons in Indian Air Force had fallen to a record low, they made their plans based on that.
They did not get the equipment – for example despite asking for a set of Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA), the Indian Air force did not get those in the last 15 years as UPA government could not squeeze profit from Rafale deal.
Therefore, when the F-16s of the Pakistan Air Force attacked India on February 27, they used Mig-21 Bison to retaliate.
When the decision was taken to attack Balakot and other targets, at that time Mirage 2000 was used. And destruction was done.
How to use and what to use in their arsenal is upto the defense forces. But what it has to use, is the prerogative of the executive. And UPA executive failed miserably in that. Something that Modi Government corrected!
Similarly the decision to go inside LoC and Pakistan international boundary (IB) was also of the executive. Until now, no executive had taken that decision. Modi government did!
So, all that Modi has ever done is taken the credit for things that he (as the head of the executive) and only he could do. He made those decisions and fought for them with all the had despite the falsehoods from opposition. And very rightly when those decisions paid off, it is but correct that he should take credit for it. And push the blame on UPA for what it did not or could not do!
The Defense personnel can and should be credited with HOW they did what they did – which was flawlessly and brilliantly. But they could do all that because they were allowed to.
You may have the best fighters in the world, but if you never have the leadership in you to use them, then you may not have ever had them! If a leader who cannot make decisions to take action has the most brilliant professionals working under him, how does it matter? He very well may not have had them! The result would still have been the same.
Having the greatest Air Force in the world is not what makes a difference in the security of a democracy like India. Having a strong EXECUTIVE leadership does!
Without that leadership, the Air Force is just a force that is wasting its time sitting idle.
With the right leadership, it can – when called upon for that – do what is necessary for the security of the country. And, using such force is sometimes necessary and critical for saving lives of the citizens and for basic integrity of the nation.
Why is National Security Critical for the Poor and the Ordinary?
Remember, the integrity of a nation and national security are NOT any elitist ideas. When a nation’s integrity suffers, the people who are hit the most are the poor. Those who are rich can bail out. Not the poor. In Iraq, Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan – who are the people who are the refugees and suffering the most? The poor! Why? Because the nation is no more or cannot cater for anyone really.
When British colonized India, the great famines impacted millions of poor. The rich were still able to do something. But it was the poor who died in millions.
Nation’s integrity, therefore, is not some elitist, chauvinistic idea. But it is an imperative if you care for the ordinary man and woman on the street.
I visited Venezuela in 2004 and it was a fine country. It had pockets of poverty and crime but it was modern, well to do and even rich in places and had great professionals and companies. I represented one of the IT giants there. In fact, went there twice. And I always loved the people, culture, and the place.
Today, just 15 years later, it is a complete anarchy. People are fighting for even basic food. It is not available. They are becoming refugees in Colombia and willing to fight the Madura regime which is killing them on the border – just because they think they will get some food there. Just food!
It took all of 15 years from a modern and well to do society to get there. That people can risk death to scramble for food!
That is all it took for Afghanistan – less than 15 years – to go from a modern country to a basket case. Syria is the same story.
For those who believe that these things happen to “other countries” should remember that it takes less than a decade and a half for a perfectly fine economy and society to land up in a chaos like in Venezuela or Syria.
And, for integrity of national security, bombs, weapons and the greatest fighters in the world will not do anything for you if the executive can either NOT make a decision or WON’T make one!
Just being there is a comparison and trigger for Jealousy
So, in a country where the executive has been known to be pusillanimous for 70 years. Actually over 800 years! Then it does stand to reason that when someone takes the battle to the enemy camp – an enemy who has vowed to kill you by thousand cuts and has the will, purpose and history of doing just that – that he be given credit!
Interestingly, all Modi has to do is Before Vs Now comparison of leadership decision-making to make the past politicians look like pygmies. And, just doing that is being called “Chest Thumping”. He has said confidently that his government has made the decision while earlier government never did.
And, for THAT, everyone is asking – why is he even saying that?
As George Orwell said – In times of Universal Deceit, just speaking the truth is a revolutionary act.
And an unsettling one.