By Charudutta Panigrahi *
If you are not a big fan of the yes/no system or argument then the venerable Edward DeBono suggests that between Yes & No there is PO. It is not black or white but somewhere in between. For subjective subjects, this is not often possible. He proposes that when people have a “right” answer, they are happy and stop looking for a better answer, curbing creativity.
Similarly, a “wrong” answer stops that train of thought – and perhaps if it had continued, then a good answer might have been found with ideas triggered from the “wrong” answer. PO is a way to break down established patterns and introduce discontinuity in thinking to come up with new ideas.
I remember PO a lot today, after AK made the grand announcement of government formation in Delhi, yesterday. AK, by the way is AK-13 of another millenium and not AK-47, the work of Mikhail Kalshnikov, who died yesterday too. Thousands of people have been exterminated & criminal elements of all kinds have fired and continue to do so from his weapon.
But today AK-13 has caught our imagination and is the man of the moment. He is also the “supposed” terminator of all evils subverting our system in India. And so far, in exactly one year he has portrayed an image of the tightrope walker shunning the lure of high office, it’s spoils from the dark pits of both the “flower” and the “hand”. We think he is a crusader, a reactionary and so he is expected to know it all and know the best.
Rising from the weak, huge, middle-class India, AK-13, in about 12 month has been able to move masses to hysteric levels without any purported tilt towards “flower” or “hand”, or towards ‘hard soil’ or ‘rock’. AK has been a well-designed, crafted, motivational brand ambassador of PO, in our parlance.
AK has spawned mass level lateral thinking. He demonstrated the temerity to challenge our inevitably “right” answers in governance, because somewhere we were happy and complacent enough to look for a better answer, curbing creativity. In the same breath, he has also been loudly telling us that a “wrong” answer stops that train of thought – and perhaps in such time that it has continued, then a good answer ought to have been found by now, with ideas triggered from the “wrong” answer.
So he is the change maker who with him brought about a phailin of youthful energies, contemporary media management skills, and finally the ‘Yes we can’ dictum proven right.
Their experience tells them that we as Indians would always look for a firmament to lean on – whether it is on make believe ethnicity or secularism or just pure nothingness as long as a well-oiled, deep rooted legacy machine keeps on rolling.
This provides a sense of comfortable complacency to the middle class, specifically. The millionaires and the billionaires are not the ones to be affected in any case. They are beyond crouching, cattle class mortals who fight for existence and subsistence. The TRP (TV being the mascot of middle class citizenry) benefactor middle class thrives on non-systemic system and that’s what the ‘hand’ and the ‘lotus’ are experts in constant remodeling.
In my view the regional political parties are more dynamic because at least they somewhere feel more accountable to a captive audience and limited demographics. Today we have much more credible regional leaders, once defiled as “regional satraps”, than ever before. Human development indices show much better performance in states than the country as a whole.
Federalism is more blatant than ever before. With this as the backdrop we always expect AK-13 not to be twisted by the slow hiss of the veterans gleefully watching his entrapment.
I am confused. I don’t know whether it is a trap by the ‘hand’, by the ‘flower’ or a great emotional game by AK-13 to trap all of us or this is an attempt by AK-13 to safeguard the tenets of the constitution and save us from re-election expenses or just nothing but grabbing of power in sheer rush.
AK would have been obstinate if he would not have come forward to form the government, but he had been that all along. He was not obstinate but firm on his views of eking a clear path.
Yesterday he did a volte face. But he has not lost his queer reasoning. He thinks that at least he can run the government for a few weeks, or few 45 days or 3 months and that he is not afraid of a stab because he knows that it is coming.
But just now we extoled him for his purposeful action to avoid the wastes of a re-election. Is he crafting a well thought out drama, putting a googly to the bulging hapless middle class on the lookout for a messiah, or is he so naïve not to imagine the consequences of a meaningless government in the true sense – trigger-happy, witch hunting, vacillating, fighting, rabble-rousing, consuming hours of our prime time beguiling us further.
We have never loved suicide more than this.
Being fully prepared for a fall out, we are out to form a government which is doomed from the beginning. Are we so indurate, so helpless and so resigned or greedy?
My only fear is that if AK turns out to be another plain looking, plain speaking, plain clothed, plain captain of a plain team, who turns out to be actually not-so-plain, India for a long time to come would be thrown into the abyss of doubt, cynicism and mistrust which would affect our business, our social equity and the morale of our Youth which has been majorly rooting for AK.
That would be a mass murder which would reverberate for decades to come. Almost a similar despondency after the Janata government fiasco, but then the youths were not involved at this scale, at least not in the capital citystate.
If AK fails to shoot the devils in the system and get shot instead, the devils would emerge much stronger than ever before. They would have a point to score and rub it to the crowding, non – privileged category in India. There would be complete paralysis of any semblance of uprising or rights voice. This is not what the young India wants.
We, as a society, do not have much time to go through this turmoil because our manufacturing sector, services, exports would all depend to a large extent on our governance, the perception of our governance, the investment climate we create and the confidence we instil in our trade and commerce.
Rightly said by Mr. Deepak Parekh today that “curbing corruption can reduce the home prices”. Similar is the case for other sectors. But we have to have a stable government first to root out a deeply entrenched malaise. Otherwise it would be reduced to sloganeering, as is the case now in the country.
How can AK-13 root out graft in the system ?
He would be in the same room as his benefactors, the ‘hand’ whom he had dismissed as untouchables because he is sure that they are the most corrupt. Today they are bedfellows. If he doesn’t toe lines, he would be pulled down and if that happens he would be again in the streets as an activist.
What we need now is action and not fists, voices, graffitis and the fight to reach common people. That has been done. Now is the time to shoot goals. And every time he can’t take the excuse of “going to people” and taking their views. Governance in a huge country like ours can’t run on theories or theatrics like this.
But if he can demonstrate that he and team could use social media successfully, smartly, cost efficiently then maybe he can do that but only for the certain decisions which can be made on not-so-serious polling mechanism like show of hand.
Otherwise this has all the potency of turning into a gimmickry reminding of NTR’s antics in AP.
AK has perched himself as the dream-catcher and he shouldn’t let the dreams die. If that happens he should tried for breach of trust, if by then we would be in a position retain our senses to realize what has hit us.
In spite of years of our skepticism, we wish him and his team all the best. If we do not wish him now, maybe we are out of fashion.
Finally I want to conclude with the discussion of ‘retardant doubt’.
De Bono suggests that with a Yes/No, fixed mindset, you require certainty of being right before acting. If you don’t have this certainty, your doubt holds you back. You may even create false certainty so that you can act (leading to problems later since you’ll then defend this false certainty). But, in the Po system, there is no certainty.
The hypothesis is only that the “current way of looking at things is the best one at the moment, but may need changing very soon”.
With the Po approach you explore a wide range of alternatives, choose the most effective idea for now, but being ready to change it for something even better.
Interesting really is the life of PO !
* Charudutta Panigrahi is a commentator on economic, social and political affais and is based in Gurgaon