By Akhil Raj Gupta
I am not an idealist. I do not believe that certain individuals have been endowed with miraculous abilities and a unilateral vision to serve a higher cause for society. Great leaders are not messiahs, they just happen to be lucky. Situated in the right place and at the right time. Nassim Nicholas Taleb, one of the incandescent thinkers of our generation, calls them black swans, accidents of probability that are capable of disrupting a fragile order. Karl Marx preferred to label them as dialectics. I am equally skeptical as I see Arvind Kejriwal and his comrades ride the wave, a wave that is premonitory of a tsunami. The outbreak of a revolution. Not the French Revolution or the Jasmine Spring. This was not an impassioned declaration of war for fundamental rights, planned in the backyards of pubs, or via messages written in code. This was an uprising that called for the enhancement of the democratic principle and the extension of liberties that a State is required to grant its citizens with the progress of time. The method did not involve wielding the sword, but rather manipulating the ballot. The rest, as they say, was history.
But as I look outside my window, I sense a change. A change that can trace its origins to the one of the most primitive human emotions, inspiration. So how did he do it? How did Arvind Kejriwal mobilize lakhs of supporters in under a year? How did he convince Delhi to render him capable of governance without any validation of his prior experience? How did he inspire?
Because he did what all great leaders have understood and implemented at some stage in their lives. He started with why.
There is a concept popularized by the charismatic author Simon Senek called the “Golden Circle”. He says that all organizations communicating with an audience (advertising) can codify the information into three concentric circles.
All organizations, whether they are political or business-oriented tend to communicate from the outside in. They start off by describing the main features of their campaign/ product i.e. reducing inflation, eradicating poverty, and providing reservation for depressed classes. This is what they are going to do. Then they proceed to elucidate the qualities of their leaders, the proficiency of their administrators, and the knowledge bank at their disposal. They identify institutional mechanisms that would be completely revolutionized (For eg- the municipal authorities for water and electricity.) and propose an alternative model for governance. This is how they are going to do it. But very rarely does a political party address the most significant aspect. How many times have you heard a Congress/ BJP leader talk to his electorate about why he proposes to do everything in his manifesto? (Assuming that a manifesto exists of course.) Probably never.
This is why these political parties have faltered. This is why anti-incumbency factors exist in our democracy. Because our “leaders” have repeatedly failed to make us believe the reason that they wish to bring about change. Endless platitudes have been put forth on what they will do and how they will do it.
The Aam Aadmi Party does not have the panacea to all of India’s maladies. They will probably be less efficient and less effective than their much more experienced counterparts in the BJP or the Congress. But there is an emotion that Arvind Kejriwal triggers every time he addresses a gathering. He has maintained one stance throughout the tumultuous three years of his rise to prominence. That the people deserve better. That a democratic government exists to provide honest, selfless, and dedicated service to its electorate because the common man works laboriously everyday. It is the people’s money that a government spends and therefore it is the people’s right to demand accountability for each unit. It is the general populace that has to deal with the menace of lack of safety and healthcare in its surroundings. By extension, the people reserve the right to choose not only the quantity, but also the quality of public amenities. In sum, Arvind Kejriwal has constantly addressed the why first and then elaborated how to do it and what results we can expect. He has communicated from the inside out, just like Mahatma Gandhi did seven decades ago. The emotion that we experience during an AAP rally is fundamental to the existence of social living. This emotion is the reason that we sleep soundly at night without the fear of our homes being ransacked and our food being stolen. It is trust. We trust Arvind Kejriwal not for him, but for ourselves. We don’t believe what he believes, but the other way round. Our belief is his belief, and that is why Delhi has endowed him with the ability to govern.
The importance of starting with why cannot be emphasized enough. Men who start with why highlight the difference between leadership and authority. (This difference has been labeled by the media as “ the VIP culture.”) Even within the domain of leadership, there are leaders and there are those who lead. Harsh Vardhan is a leader, as is Sheila Dikshit, but Arvind Kejriwal is a man who leads. He trusts us as much as we trust him. This is the foundation of his innovation and experimentation as much as it is the difference between his passion and others’ stress. This is why he has the ability to conduct Janata Darbars and refuse Z-category security. Yes, there will be failures but as long as mutual belief exists, I am confident that the AAP phenomenon will herald a new era of governance in India.
The above analysis is not my own subjective opinion. While it is certainly flexible to different interpretations, I would like to give you an example of how AAP has successfully embraced the why, while the others are still grappling with how and what. In a village in Haryana where assembly and national elections are due shortly, three political advertisement boards hang next to each other. The Congress board bares the countenance of a beaming politician with the message “ Bring Chautala back.” The BJP board is resplendent with the gleaming eyes of Narendra Modi exhorting voters to “Vote for India.” The Aam Aadmi Party board is little smaller, but carries the most meaningful message “ Agar aap kranti ka hissa banna chahte hain, toh AAP se judiye.” (If you wish to be part of a political revolution, then join the AAP.
As citizens, our response to politicians who start with why is grounded in biology. The features of a manifesto and the plan of action by a political party appeal to our neo-cortex. This is the part of our brain that behaves rationally, assesses different options by the utility they provide, and makes smart decision. This is what economists refer to as ‘ the rational actor model’. But when a leader tells us why he believes what he believes, our limbic system is forced into action. The limbic system generates and responds to emotions. It is the storehouse of happiness, grief, anger, suspicion and above all, trust. The limbic system automatically makes us smile when we see a laughing person. In common parlance, it is called a ‘ gut feeling’. Interestingly enough, this part of our brain does not correspond to language or articulation ability. That’s why we sometimes fail to give reasons for our beliefs.
“ Something about AAP feels right.”
“ Arvind Kejriwal has that thing, you know? “
We’ve heard these statements too frequently and now we can characterize the mass appeal of Arvind Kejriwal. However, a word of caution to the quintessential common man of our nation is in order. Continue what you do and how you do it, but always remind us first, why you’re doing it.
Akhil is currently in his second year at college, pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics (Hons) at Sri Ram College of Commerce, University of Delhi. He has been passionate about writing since an early age and is currently involved with the official College magazine and Economics Department magazine at SRCC. His areas of interest include behavioural economics / finance, econometric analysis, macroeconomic policy, and political theory. He spends his free time reading extensively, watching interesting videos on YouTube, and trying to convince everybody around him that he really does know a thing or two about economics in the midst of all the pontification!
 Simon Senek, Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
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