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Leadership Crisis in the UPA Government
by Dr. Gopal Singh Bookmark and Share
For any organization to function effectively its leaders must have a clearly defined vision. They must convey the vision to all their key members who in turn must take ownership of the vision. This is a very deliberate and iterative process that requires exceptional top leaders and their associates. Once the ownership of the vision has been established, more defined missions consistent with that vision are created and shared throughout the organization. These two steps have to permeate throughout the entire organization for the details to be implemented on a day to day basis consistent with them.  After these steps have been instituted, various elements of the organization implement their strategies, goals, objectives, measurement systems and so on to function in a homogeneous and consistent manner.
In classic management teaching the UPA will be an excellent example of what not to do as a good organization. When you have ineffective leadership, the organization does not coalesce around a common value system. People do not know clearly what is expected of them. Confusion and chaos rein.
Before I proceed any further, I wish to state that this is not a criticism to single out the UPA government. Other governments at the national and state levels have been and continue to be plagued with serious leadership crises.
What matters most at this point in time is the current UPA government. To begin with we have a unique situation here where one person heads the Congress Party and the UPA alliance and another person heads the UPA government. As far as the country is concerned, the head of the UPA government, the Prime Minister, is the person in command. However, the entire nation is aware that the head of the Congress Party is the one really in command. The current Prime Minister, however competent technically, ethically and personally, is ineffective as a leader. Even this situation can be made functional if the party and the government are on the same page. Their vision, missions, strategies and action plans are well thought out and consistent. Clearly this is not the case here. We have rampant confusions and chaos between and within the two organizations that lead to ineffective functioning of the government and the country. 
Differences within any organization, particularly a large one, are understandable.  Typically any effective organization recognizes them quickly and moves swiftly to iron them out. But when these differences spill outside the organization frequently, then it is clear that there is a leadership vacuum.
This problem has manifested itself virtually on a daily basis within the UPA and the government. Let us review a few situations:
We are all very familiar with the 2-G spectrum fiasco.  On January 7, 2011 Kapil Sibal, a senior UPA minister stated that CAG estimate of  loss on 2G spectrum was fraught with serious errors and there was actually no loss to the exchequer.
The Supreme Court just recently declared the allotment of spectrum as unconstitutional and arbitrary and quashed all the 122 licenses issued during the tenure of A. Raja.  The court further said that Mr. Raja wanted to favor some companies at the cost of the public exchequer and virtually gifted away important national asset.
What was Mr. Sibal thinking? Was he acting on his own? Was he asked by UPA to defend Mr. Raja? Did he consult and receive consent of the Prime Minister? Better yet, did he apply his own intellect and judgment before making these outrageous claims? If he was getting conflicting directives, did he try to resolve them within the system? If no acceptable direction was forthcoming and he was dictated to take a position, did it sit well with his personal integrity?  No matter how you look at it, there was a complete lack of leadership on part of Mr. Sibal, the UPA and the government.
On February 16, 2011 in a televised press conference when asked about the 2-G scam the Prime Minister said "In a coalition, there is a coalition dharma. Obviously, things are not entirely what I would like them to be. I never felt like resigning as I have a job to do." 

Just exactly what is coalition dharma? 

Does it extend to the limit of becoming adharma

The Prime Minister wrote a letter to Mr. Raja asking him to be fair and transparent. Mr. Raja chose to discard the Prime Minister’s advice. The Prime Minister chose to tolerate the defiance and look the other way. Was this the point when the coalition dharma kicked in? What message did it send to the PMO members and the rest of the government colleagues? Did the coalition deal made with DMK include compromising the integrity on part of UPA? If so, how was it communicated to the rest of the organization? Did they all consent?
During the August 2011 Anna Hazare movement, Congress MP from Ludhiana, Mr. Manish Tiwari, a UPA spokesperson, made some very derogatory comments about Mr. Hazare that went well beyond the norms of decency. The Congress party quickly dissociated itself from Mr. Tiwari’s remarks. Mr. Tiwari had to apologize publically to Mr. Hazare for his remarks. Did Mr. Tiwari make these remarks on his own without consulting the party? Was he given the direction under the premise (Mission Impossible style) we will deny we support your comments in case they backfire? Did Mr. Tiwari have a standard of integrity of his own? Did he buy into the party’s position whole heartedly? Was he compelled to take unpopular positions against his will? Did it matter to him one way or the other? What exactly are his vision, mission and purpose in being in politics? There is a complete lack of leadership throughout the UPA system here.
I need not tell you how often Digvijay Singh has done this. Where do you rank him on the scale of leadership and integrity? Is there really a leadership without integrity?
On or around January 10, 2012, Law Minister Salman Khurshid made a promise for nine per cent sub-quota for certain minorities.  The Election Commission, after due notice and hearing, passed an order on February, 9, 2012 that Khurshid had violated the model code of conduct. The EC noted that Khurshid had violated the poll code as the announcement came even before the Congress manifesto was released. Besides, the 9% sub-quota promise did not even figure in the party manifesto released on January 31. On February 15,  Mr. Khurshid apologized to the Election Commission. Where did he come up with this 9% sub-quota idea? Did he read the party manifesto? Did he act on his own? Forget about the value judgment and violation of the MCC in the heat of the election process. What is clear here is the disconnect between key individuals and the UPA leadership. Everyone here makes lose comments to suit his/her own purpose and then apologizes when caught doing it. Besides maintaing silence or disowning the comments, do the UPA government and the Congress Party take any action on it to correct the situation in the future? What is their strategy? Do they have any?
The drama does not stop here. Soon after Mr. Khursid apologized, Beni Pradsad Verma, the Union Steel Minister committed the same offence. Did he not learn from Khursid incident?  Did he consult the UPA about the Party manifesto? What about the warning issued earlier by the Election Commission? Does anything matter? It is evident that there are no clear directions being provided and enforced by the UPA alliance or the government.
Need I go on! On February 23, 2012, Mr. P. P.  Malhotra, the Additional Solicitor General of India told the Supreme Court that the Home Ministry believed gay sex was unnatural and caused AIDS. He stated "Our Constitution is different and our moral and social values are also different from other countries, so we cannot follow them”.  He further emphasized that societal disapproval of gay sex is a strong enough reason to criminalize it. No sooner than he uttered these dramatic words, the Home Ministry distanced itself from his statements, saying it wasn't their position on homosexuality. The ministry clarified that it had, in fact, decided not to challenge the 2009 order of the Delhi High Court decriminalizing homosexuality. The point here is not to decide who is wrong or right on the subject of homosexuality? What is of utmost concern here is the glaring lack of communication between various elements of the UPA government. The left hand does not know what the right hand is doing! 
In classic management teaching the UPA will be an excellent example of what not to do as a good organization. When you have ineffective leadership, the organization does not coalesce around a common value system. People do not know clearly what is expected of them. Confusion and chaos rein. The organization becomes ineffective. This is the ideal environment for corruption to germinate and thrive.
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Comment Dear Sir,

I would like put a different theory to analyze the events at national level and UPA's handling of them.

All the events and actions of UPA leaders described in above article can be explained by following theory:

1. We have a typical case where the leadership of the organization is not aligned with national interests.

2. Rather than weak, the leadership in UPA is too strong, each leader obeys the top leadership with uttermost obedience.

3. The top leadership is strong enough to throw out any entity out of the organization that poses any challenge to the it. (e.g. Jagan Mohan Reddy in A.P. - an article by Mr. Puri on boloji.com may be referred to)

4. The top leadership is clear about the objectives it wants to meet and achieve. Those objectives are not aligned to national interests and even are against national interests (if one disagree, he/she should try to explain a long closed door meeting between Hasan Ali, Mr. Deshmukh and secretary of the top UPA leader).

5. The top leadership works with very close inner circle, that does not come in public and public is largely unaware of it.

6. All major actions by UPA leaders, including statements to media, are directed from this inner circle, and are followed by rest of the leaders. Indeed the level of politics inner circle is skilled at, is unimaginable. (To common persons like me !)

7. The prime minister is not the top leader of UPA !


Now, let's apply the above theory to explain a few events:

=> Kapil Sibal was given liberty to convey to the mass that there did not exist any 2G scam, and he did it.

=> The 16th Feb 2011 press conference by the prime minister was orchestrated, the answers were prepared in advance. The PM otherwise is not available for such questioning, there are and were other such issues of prime importance that he never chose to address in media. So why only 2G scam ? As 2G was gathering heat and politicians understood intent of SC, they did everything to downplay it. The PM with 'honest man' image is best to do this.

=> Mr. Manish Tiwari was asked to make such statements (words might be chosen by him), that he did it. The party always has a chance to distance itself if statements cause negative impact, so it was a stunt without much risk.

=> Mr. Khurshid and other now well that Kanress politicians working in UP election have a major and priority task is to get Kangress win UP elections and to pose Rahul as effective leader. They are ready to bite the dust if in order to swing some votes they come under EC bashing. After all, the will of top leadership has to prevail than anything else.

=> Let's take Mr. Digvijay Singh, he is hardly of any use in terms of bringing vote to UPA. I am sure people in his state - MP, would like to get his deposit ceased in the election (and so he will not be prime leader in the state elections of MP). So, there is a leader who can not bring votes, and has an ugly image in the nation (because of his foul mouth). Shouldn't it be in UPA's interest to shut him up or even suspend him ?

But, can he be suspended if he is following all instructions of his master obediently ? (well, opinion expressed from that foul mouth are used as 'news' and that serves the purpose, especially in local newspapers).

The sense of communication gap or vision gap that we see on national issues, is because the top leadership has CHOSEN not to provide any directions on such issues. And that each leader is free to act on his own.

Let's take another case - the movement by Baba Ramdev against black money in foreign banks. We saw UPA leadership going to and fro and finally cracking down upon the participants by police force in midnight. The SC has declared the police action unconstitutional.

Do you see any instance where any UPA leader did not act in synch with another UPA leader ? Till date ?


If the above theory is correct, I am not sure if there exists a topic in classic management, where UPA's example can fit.

02/25/2012 14:23 PM

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