Ego & Political Blindness
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Ego & Political Blindness

September 1, 2018

Our Defence Minister visited Kodagu district to take stock of the situation and see how the Defence personnel were performing. Unfortunately, her visit became more about her ego than about Kodagu disaster.

By now we all know about Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s outburst at the press conference. But what caused this? It seems, when the Defence Minster was taking too much time talking with some ex-servicemen, Kodagu District Minister S. R. Mahesh politely suggested that it would be better if she first finished meeting with the Field Officers so they can go back to their rescue duties and after that she can give more time for the veterans. This irked the Union Minister and by the time she sat before the media she was seething and heard saying, “Central Minister follows the District Minister here. Unbelievable!”

In an attempt to end the embarrassment, Mysuru-Kodagu MP Pratap Simha informed Sitharaman that the microphones were turned on, to which the angry Minister said, “Let it get recorded,”  and in a mocking tone and sarcastic expression told the media “record karloo.” In this episode, S.R. Mahesh came out as a mature leader. He was respectful of the Union Minister even when she was not.

In the end, what did Kodagu get from Sitharaman’s visit? Rs. 1 crore from MP Fund, Rs. 7 crore from the military CSR Fund while her behaviour made us question if she had the right ‘temperament’ to be a Defence Minister?

Yes, Sitharaman was being egotistical and because of it she breached the propriety expected of a Union Minister. While the Minister told the Kodagu DC and District Minister,  “You people should have sorted out your differences before I came,” may be she should have applied the same rule to herself — “sort out your differences before you come before the media.”

It’s ironic that the same Defence Minister, when Rahul Gandhi asked about the Rafale deal said, “I don’t want to satisfy Rahul Gandhi’s ego and reveal details of avionics.”

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Well, she doesn’t want to satisfy Rahul Gandhi’s ego, but she wants S.R. Mahesh to satisfy her ego by being a subservient State-level Minister and follow the Great Union Minister who has descended from Delhi?

Luckily, Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy has a better temperament. He publicly apologised for the “inconvenience” caused to her and reminded her that “I believe this is the time for all of us to forget small differences and forgive each other and join hands for the rehabilitation of the flood-affected people in Kodagu.”

Kumaraswamy has always been one of the few political leaders with the right temperament for politics and has the ability to see the bigger picture.

Vallabhbhai Patel Vs Nehru

This ego clash of Ministers reminds one of the clash between the giants of Indian politics Vallabhbhai Patel and Nehru that Ramachandra Guha recalls in his book India After Gandhi.

It seems in December 1947 Nehru was supposed visit the riot-hit town of Ajmer but at the last minute he called off his trip and sent his Personal Secretary instead.  Vallabhbhai Patel, who was the Deputy Prime Minister and also the Home Minister was upset and wrote to Prime Minister Nehru that since the Home Ministry had sent its own enquiry team to Ajmer, the tour of the Prime Minister’s underling implied a lack of faith in his Ministry.

Nehru replied explaining that he could not visit Ajmer himself because of a death in the family but since the people in Ajmer were expecting him, he did not want to disappoint them and so sent his Secretary. Nehru then added saying that since he is the Prime Minister he had the right to go wherever he wished, whenever he wished or even send anyone he wished to represent him.

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Patel replied that in a Cabinet system the Prime Minister was merely the first among equals; he did not stand above and dominate his fellow Ministers. This ego clash about protocol and political status got so ugly that both leaders offered to resign! But then they decided that Gandhiji should mediate!

On 30th January 1948, Gandhiji met only Patel and asked that he and Nehru sort out their differences. He then told Patel that he would meet both him and Nehru the next day and left for a prayer meeting. But alas that next day never came as Gandhiji was shot dead when he was going out for the prayer meeting.

But what happened next shows the quality of our leaders of the past.

After Gandhiji’s death, Nehru wrote to Patel saying, “With Bapu’s death, everything is changed and we have to face a different and more difficult world. The old controversies have ceased to have much significance and it seems to me that the urgent need of the hour is for all of us to function as closely and co-operatively as possible.”

Patel replied, “I fully and heartily reciprocate the sentiments you have so feelingly expressed. His death changes everything and the crisis that has overtaken us must awaken in us afresh realisation of how much we have achieved together and the need for further joint efforts in our grief-stricken country’s interests.”

Yes, great leaders too have an ego, but what makes them Statesmen is that they know when to put their ego aside and see the bigger picture —  The Nation.

Luckily, our CM Kumaraswamy saw the bigger picture, sadly the Big Minister from Delhi didn’t. But then they say ego has a blinding effect.

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12 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Ego & Political Blindness”

  1. Govind Pai says:

    I love the way you let the chips fall where they may, Vikram Muthanna! You give praise where it is due ( Pratap Simha and S.R. Mahesh) and criticism where it is warranted (Nirmala Sitaraman) without consideration of party or political ideology. Rare, in these polarized times, for journalists,who usually have an axe to grind or a paymaster to please and who are unwilling to call out the rotten apples or draw attention to the more decent and human netas, whatever their affiliation. Kudos! Yes, body language can tell one a lot. Thin, pursed lips, mocking language, a thinly veiled contempt for people one has to work with, can make even a person with a towering intellect worthless in endeavours where the ability to connect, to see people as human beings and not enemies, and be able to work together is of paramount importance.

  2. Sun Sun says:

    Dear Vikram, What about these?


    Sitharaman said the programme for the flood affected areas was finalised by the district administration in consultation with the public representatives. It was approved and circulated to all concerned two days before her arrival. Subsequently on the request of the district administrator an interaction with ex-army veterans was added to the schedule.

    The defence minister said on completion of the field visit as per the programme, she was interacting with the ex-servicemen who were affected by the floods when Mahesh objected and insisted that the meeting of the officials must be conducted first.

    She clarified that welfare of the ex-servicemen was an essential part of the defence ministry and the same was scheduled in the programme. However, the district administration insisted that she immediately stop the interaction and proceed to the meeting with the officials.

    “While it was extremely unfortunate, in order to avoid the situation from deteriorating, defence minister immediately halted the meeting and proceeded to the venue of the meeting with the officials. The venue was already set up for the press conference and hurriedly the officials were summoned to sit among the mediapersons for the review. It was unprecedented to hold a meeting with the officials, with all mediapersons present,” the clarification said.

    It said she then heard the grievances of the waiting ex-servicemen. Inspite of the district administration finalising the programme and the defence minister following the same in its entirety, it was unfortunate that the minister behaved the way he did.

    “Subsequently, the personal remarks against the defence minister were also in bad taste, which did not merit a response.”

  3. What a World! says:

    This woman has been promoted beyond her capability , and holds the ministry previously held by the great Y B Chavan. She was recommended to this ministry by another useless colleague, the foreign minister Swaraj, the criteria-a fellow woman! A Rajya Sabha member I guess allocated to Karnataka, she has not come to this position having won an election as a Lok Sabha member. She is no towering intellect, and does not have the gravitas of any one in Nehru’s cabinet. Modesty it appears is not one of her qualities.

    • dr.m.shanthakumar says:

      she is very arrogant. i feel modiji must sack her from the ministry . she is a black spot for bjp

    • Rao says:

      Nirmala doesn’t believe in discussion. Rather she always tries to intermediate so that the opponent fears asking question.
      She doesn’t have any credentials (personal and electoral) to be in top 5 ministries.

  4. Sam says:

    All the people discussed here are the people with Talent AND Ego! Where does the ego of the dumb Italian Ex-waitress cum defacto PM who did not even show respect to PV Narasimha Rao who was highly talented and saved the nation from definite doom!? Her ego insulted him when he was alive and even after death! And it is her ego that wants to give India an absolute idiot and moron PM supported by a bunch of corrupt scamsters and thugs! while even Gowry Lankesh got a 21 gun solute after her death for her unknown achievements, a great son of India was just cremated in disgrace like an unknown person!

  5. Sam says:

    Nowadays, discipline and organizational skills are portrayed as arrogance for the sake of political advantage! The defense minister is a very organized person and not a true politician in the sense we are used to. Most of the politicians are scumbags who change the stories based on the directions of the political wind! She is an exception to that and was very curt in. Sticking to her schedule!
    If you want an example of real arrogant person, Sonia Gandhi is a living example! She abused PV Narasimha Rao when he was alive and made sure he did not get any respect he deserved even when he was dead! He body was cremated like an ordinary poor man . He was the brain behind the revival of India’s economy eventhogh the dumb Sardarji got the credit! When Gauri Lanjesh got a 21 gun solute. PVN did not get that. You can Thank Sonia for that!
    The second incident was , Sonia made Manmohan Singh apologize for 1984 Sikh massacre! MMS was in no way connected to the massacre! In fact he belong the Victims community! It is like Nirbhayas father forced to apologize for his daughters rape! That Satdarji was so much of s dumb loyalist, he did it without any questions! That showed how she operated as a de facto PM without being elected!
    These are the true examples of political arrogance!

  6. True that like foreign minister Sushma Swaraj Ms.Nirmala Sitharaman has some negatives during some interactions in crisis situations.But overall both are doing a good job in upholding and promoting national interest.Ms.Sitharaman is striving hard to strengthen our armed forces which had become toothless due to decades of neglect and shady defence deals under the decades of misrule by the UPA.And to cap it all our army and the air force have played a key role in saving the lives of thousands of marooned families in flood ravaged Kerala and Kodagu.

  7. Mohan says:

    I wonder how you are going backward instead supporting to your BJP minister. Even child in Mysore knows star of mysore and mysooru mitra is a BJP favoritism newspaper. Oh thats the reason behind i got it, sr mahesh is pratap simha side and vikram muthanna, ganapthy is pratap (bjp) side. Journalism went beyond gutter !

  8. Rizwan Shah says:

    Article was very well analyzed by the writer. Without bias and shows mirror to the Defence Minister on her ego or arrogance as I would aptly call it as.
    May Coorg my birth land recover from the calamity it has suffered and rise to its glory. May God protect my Beautiful Coorg and it’s equally Magnificent People.

  9. Samir says:

    SOM commentators seem to be in the habit of playing judge and the jury!Did anybody care about her schedule If she follows the schedule, some group criticize herMif she does not follow, some other group are not happy! I think we want ministers and MPs who want to go to places with no ideas , target or use do whatever suirs them


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