India Elections: Anti-Corruption Party Faces First Test

On hierarchies, let us talk about autocratic vs. democratic styles of leadership and dissent. Democratic is always favourable, but this young organization has a tough mandate to prove and the time it has is extremely short.

Ideally, a situation like this might indicate an autocratic style might enable ensuring work gets completed fast, rather than a “too many cooks spoiling the broth” situation under a democratic style. But autocracy spawns dissent; dissent can turn friends into foes, and friends it needs now when a tough mandate is in the calling.

Dissent just fragments the party, which fragments the voter interest. Triggers for dissent often involve an individual angle. In more cases than not, the individual is a prime feature. For instance, a company executive feels dissent against his manager owing to a friction, rather than the department as such.

Is there a way to institutionalize the leadership functioning, wherein it does not showcase an individual? Where the instruction, itself made by a democratic process, is sounded by a medium which is not an individual? Instruction placed by a medium which uses a degree of autocracy to ensure adherence, but might not be perceived as such because it has a more impersonal face as compared to one individual.

A detailed Policy Manual might be one, which would talk about the party’s objectives and motives, and would also include a code of conduct, what its opinion is on public issues, what its replies should be to critical issues, what it seeks members to do etc.

This medium of instruction, itself made by democratic process of discussion and opinions, can be a tool to push an autocratic style to manage the workforce, but yet in a more institutionalized way. This suggestion is debatable since dissent can still occur against the medium, but frequencies might be fewer since it reduces the individual aspect. One is following an organizational rule, not an individual’s order.

The AAP does have a Vision document in place, hopefully that should cover many of these aspects. However, the objective here might be to go even deeper. Another equation is delegation. The leadership must have the comfort to know that each candidate walks and talks on the same page, and a detailed policy manual might work for that too.

REMOVING CORRUPTION

Another key challenge is its mantra of removing corruption from governance. An alleged form is crony capitalism. Nexus between businesses and politicians to manage deals for mutual gains (or avoid mutual loss) are a bit akin to “you scratch my back and I scratch yours”.

Everyone accepts breaking the back of such ingrained nexus is tough and time consuming due to incentives not to change. Let us use the term incentive. Is there a way to work with these elements by creating a legitimate, lawful incentive to convert resistance into support, rather than antagonizing?

It is a tricky aspect to manage for any leadership team, and a thin line as such. But the motive is to ensure that the AAP’s mandate is achieved in the end, and in a clean manner.

This takes the mind to setting a Compulsory CSR [Corporate Social Responsibility] Policy for companies combined with targeted Sops – incentives to generate and promote interest in various projects. In other words, defining a specific CSR policy by which businesses participate in meaningful projects for the local communities’ benefit, especially in local infrastructure development and vocational skill training.

This might not address the AAP’s agenda on food and energy issues, but improved local infrastructure and enhanced job opportunities due to training the workforce can still reap long-term benefits. Additional costs for CSR will not excite companies to invest in its region, hence the need to offer some Sops as an attraction.

Sops might seem unattractive for government finances, but the benefits they would end up yielding would have been part of the development agenda the party was aiming for anyway. Is that something the AAP leadership might want to implement, or think as doable? More importantly, will that really compensate those who gained disproportionate pecuniary benefits from crony capitalism? Maybe not, but at least it might be an attempt.