Ghosts seem always fond of a man whether he is Chief Minister of a State or Prime Minister of the country. As the demons of demonetization seem to haunt him, I am only reminded of a prime master-mind who himself became a ghost-master all of a sudden with an unexpected spell that wiped the fortunes of many a thousand and shattered the dreams of millions on a fine Friday evening.
In 2014, Mr. Modi may have emerged politically conquering all with his stellar stunning rise to the top. Not just the ghosts of Gujarat; the most powerful rivals within his own camp; shaking the very roots of the dynastic majesty in coalition at rule for most part; declaration of a daring surgical strike to the historic non-state narcissi near around, the list of ghosts is ever growing including those whom he has diplomatically conquered in admiration belonging to the high and mighty power nations across the world.
Today nearly after more than 10 days of a surgical-strike of a different kind in surprise against the black economy, much of what India had been for decades has dramatically changed most of it over-night for good or bad. Not just for his citizens, even for the 54-inch strong-man himself, the surprise evoked mixed emotions reflecting in him a warrior of different kind who is yet unshaken and resolute.
There have been already all kinds of reactions across different sections right from men and women fed-up of long queues in front of banks and ATMs to the political and business class, well-read economists and media from all over the world. There has been a heavy anti-demonetisation campaign in the Indian media. Even the significant part of world media that showed mixed reactions initially is now unanimously criticizing the decision as a costly political move, disastrous to poor, bad economics, beneficial to corrupt rich, and prone to protests. The central government has not been spared of a warning even from the apex court on the need for managing the current situation.
Is Mr. Modi’s decision to mutate the high value currency going to pay the country off dividends in the right direction?
The answers are both macro and micro socio-economic in nature and the outcome is expected to be seen both short-term and long-term. The economic structures in the country are so elastic and complicated that there are far too many loopholes and leverages available in the system. India is a land where the ghosts in scrupulous elements who know how to take advantage even out of an adversity. Therefore, there certainly exists a parallel economy of ‘discounted legal and illegal tender’ of the mutated tender which is supposed to be only illegal now.
No denying that the cash crunch has caused an unprecedented hardship to the common man especially to the lower, and middle class. In addition to the cash-heavy sectors, the rural economy is the most hit at the moment. There are even alarming predictions halving the GDP growth forecast in FY07 as a result of a weakened consumption demand, and muted investment growth.
The seemingly real and conspiracy theories propelled either in support or against by left or right wing extremism or the so called secular economists are floating to add to prevailing confusion. When I read or hear them, what is very clear is that the real macro-economic impact of this move can’t be all that easily predicted immediately as there are many twists and turns over the course for us to see final verdict of this masterstroke move.
If anything that has fascinated me despite the hardships the move has caused is the man himself, and the fortitude of his mind, an un-conventional determination and decisiveness, the hall-mark traits of horizontal leader.
First the move as a decision is worthy enough of being revolutionary. Amidst the gloomy reality and when there is a perception and fear that the drive will disrupt the economy turning India into one of world’s slowest economies, I know that I am thinking the unthinkable. Who can actually take a historic risk such as this and at a time already the economy is sluggish especially in India? Beyond any doubt, only a leader with fundamentally strong horizontal thinking and traits can risk disruption of this kind. It couldn’t just be anyone than Mr. Modi in India.
I would be happy to see if this move can disrupt the source of political funding and electoral corruption in particular, the mother of all corruption, more than anything either immediately or in the future. A fitting example would be the 2016 assembly elections in Tamil Nadu which had seen an unprecedented flow of money flowing as voter bribing across all the constituencies forcing the Election Commission of India to postpone elections in two constituencies, something which has never happened in the electoral history. It is reported that the two principle parties in the state had spent more than fifteen thousand crores for voter bribing alone. Obviously, all of this is black, and it won’t require any science to guess where has all this money come from? The two main political parties have only disrupted corruption itself and the repeat of Tamil Nadu is definitely possible anywhere across the country. It is high time that the Election Commission itself requires disruption for remaining to be a toothless body, and sometimes captive in the hands of corrupt politicians in power. So, the high cost of funding elections and corruption go hand in hand as untaxed wealth or black money drives political funding in India. The elected representatives thus become beneficiaries in the hands of the corrupt high and mighty who provide such funds in turn to become beneficiaries of power.
The political parties who are currently opposing the move are not only doing so on behalf of suffering people but themselves too. The bitter truth is that Mr. Modi’s move has disturbed them in a way making it difficult for them to raise large amount of unaccounted political funding in the future. I wish this becomes a reality.
Next, it is interesting to observe Mr. Modi the man himself in the context of the revolutionary decision. I am drawn to the method in Mr. Modi’s style that enthralls me, though it’s intriguing. Someone who has been closely studying many leadership personalities those existing and evolving equally as a leadership strategy consultant, what has astounded me was the way he rose to revolutionary relevance both within and outside his party. Mr. Modi was one of the very few leaders from India popularly known to the world even before he became the prime minister of the country, may have been for the wrong reasons then. A virtual outcast refused entry to US and diplomatically shunted by Britain and European Union. Subsequently, it is the very same man not only even more popularly known; he is celebrated with a red-carpet reverence including the very same countries that shunted him earlier for all the right reasons now.
Mr. Modi first disrupted his personal and political image to establish himself as a formidable leader. He could influence the rank and file within his own party to unanimously accept him as an unrivalled future for the party and subsequently as an unmatched prime ministerial material to fight it’s the grand-old rival outside. He managed to do so both by turning his adversity to his advantage with a hardliner positioning even as the ghosts of Gujarat were haunting him to be seen as the unrivalled war-lord force of right-wing polarity. With his make-believe disruptive Gujarat growth model, he projected himself as an unrivalled modern architect of development. Finally, he then went on to disrupt the way political campaigning was being done in India. With his never-before master-class modern electioneering techniques, he scripted and gifted his party with one of the greatest electoral triumphs anywhere in the world uprooting its political rival.
The master-warrior has just about less than two years to go for the next big war. He knows he needs to deliver something really big to fulfill his promise of ‘Ache Din ‘. Not make-believe, something real, even if it can pinch people temporarily. He also knows that when differentiation fails, its disruption that can deliver. The world itself is moving in the direction as many horizontal leaders who disrupt their environments on the rise. I don’t see a problem for him being a horizontal leader himself; disruption is natural and he knows when to use it in his favour. The future is going to be, and the world is going to be full of horizontal leaders who are not wary about disruption as the future holds good only for them.
What in the political world is changing for leaders to go disruptive? Is anti-incumbency against the system wearing off with anti-establishment and insurgency as a trend?
We have both history and increasingly the reality to count. The longer any political party is in power, it’s obvious that the more likely for a stronger anti-incumbency that develops against it. And if longer there are two parties dominating the system being bipolar, there is also a fear of public sentiment turning anti- establishment. This is happening all over the world. In a state like Tamil Nadu, this should have happened by now with fifty years of a bipolar system that people have alternately been fed-up without a choice of one for the other. There was seemingly an emergent horizontal leader in Dr.Anbumani Ramadoss who was able to disrupt the electoral thinking for the first time to galvanize attention and pose a shaking challenge to deliver change of a different kind. He was able to become an impact-maker delivering one of the two outcomes seen that when a horizontal leader rises, and was prevented from becoming a game-changer as the system to-gather fought tooth and nail disrupting the very electoral corruption itself. Tamil Nadu as a State is in a wear and tear already of sustainable leadership, and the insurgent factor from emerging is being controlled by both the parties together with a deep-rooted electoral corruption that needs a systemic disruption of a different kind though this approach may not last long.
When there is anti-establishment as a sentiment, the kind of sentiment is not merely satisfied with one party being thrown out of power for the other to be brought in. It goes for a radical change. That’s the new direction that we see as a trend everywhere. Starting from a very early example of Venezuela in 1990 to Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi, even Modi, as an outsider to Delhi, and Trump in the US off-late now only goes to prove how the sentiment of anti-establishment works. Trump has been delivered from outside to disrupt the Washington establishment that comprises of elites from both the Democrats and the Republicans.
The world is moving towards horizontal thinking, actions, attitudes, behaviors, decisions and actions to deliver a new breed of unconventional environment and leaders. The Brexit was a wake-up call for the elites in the UK and across the world. Kejriwal’s debut to Delhi State Assembly elections in 2013 marked an electoral insurgency in the history of India. He was able to present a picture even as a regional force that was completely different from the two national bigwigs in Delhi. Mr. Modi himself leveraged the outsider image to capture Delhi with an unprecedented mandate. Kejriwal, Modi, Brexitons and Trump – all of them were the insurgents, disruptionists and horizontal leaders. They have all mastered their distinction against a clear sense of incumbent polarity.
Kejriwal particularly emerged out of IAC initially and remained the insurgent warlord against corruption an image skillfully mastered by him to occupy the space even after winning his war. Mr. Modi has quite unexpectedly to everyone’s shock has turned the tables with just one horizontal decision, a disruption that has shaken the very foundations of leaders like Kejriwal and other regional satraps. This is exactly how horizontal leaders rise and rise stronger. When they rise, the existing ones in opposition or polarity jitter and shatter along with the context as these horizontal leaders create a whole new context for them to operate. We do have several classic corporate cases of rise of horizontal leaders. Anti-corruption crusader, Anna Hazare himself seemed to have had no choice but to toe Mr. Modi’s line supporting the demonetisation to retain his relevance in the context. The macro-economic implications are yet to be seen though the political implications are comparatively clear that it’s only Mr. Modi who can turn any tables in reality. The opposition can only be exposed of their inaction and jitter in status-quo.
Mr. Modi’s current principal opposition, Mr. Gandhi, the dynastic prince is a phenomenon of different kind that the grand old party is grappling to deal with. My guess is that he will only remain an insider in his party provided he exhibits the courage of a horizontal leader. He needs to disrupt himself as persona first. He should become an insurgent to his own party deeply rooted to historic grandeur without a clear sense of winnable polarity.
There is literally none who can actually challenge Mr. Modi though there is a small ray of hope in Nitish Kumar, who is yet to prove his prize of horizontal leadership. Kejriwal is seen aiming high to replace a weak Mr. Gandhi to occupy the principle polar space of an opposition to Mr.Modi ever since 2013 seizing every opportunity to target him. However, Kejriwal once seen a potential 7 race-course unicorn suddenly looks totally lost in his clamor of an insurgent against establishment. The fact that he has gone to the extent of sharing dais with a convicted political mavericks like Lallu and supported Mahagathbandhan in the Bihar assembly election last year and now being found lost amidst the weak coalitions like TMC to protest against Mr. Modi’s demonetization decision proves that Kejriwal is no longer an insurgent. Born a disruptive insurgent, one of the fiercest horizontal leaders in the political history of India, a David who could defeat two goliaths together stripping the massive glory of a majestic mandate of Mr.Modi himself in Delhi, it’s a pity that Kejriwal is not even a vertical leader of any significance now.
Mr. Modi on the contrary seems to be exhibiting the traits of a true horizontal leader testing waters with an emboldened stride of a disruption called ‘self-disruption’. His method may be maddeningly historic but the manner of its deployment seems momentarily catastrophic. Yet, I may not be wrong to sense a grand-old strategist in him who is ready to lose the battle to win the war eventually.
Self-disruption is key to success. Now, it’s all part of the game 2019. The disruptor who has not lost himself, and who knows to overcome when he himself is an obstacle will definitely deliver. Damodar may have delivered a barter economy to the rural India amidst all the chaos for now. But, Mr. Modi is definitely capable of fighting the demons even if that be a war with the nudging neighbor to deliver a delightful digital democracy.