The dynamic duo3 min read . Updated: 18 Apr 2012, 12:43 AM IST
The dynamic duo
The dynamic duo
This summer, India will elect a new head of state without any participation from ordinary Indians. Under our byzantine voting procedure, Parliament and the state assemblies will decide on the President. The lack of direct public voting can result in a President who is relatively unknown to most Indians, but favoured by the party in power. That’s how India came to be led by Pratibha Patil, a relatively unknown, but staunch Congress party loyalist. This time, however, no one party will be able to handpick a candidate, given the political composition of Parliament and the assemblies. Instead, the new President will have to be a consensus choice of political parties. So who will be able to best cross the political divide?
The unbeatable combination in this monsoon’s presidential election would be Infosys founder N.R. Narayana Murthy as President and Delhi Metro’s former managing director E. Sreedharan as vice-president. In the midst of India’s gloom and doom environment, these two individuals have the achievements, ethics and drive to galvanize the people and their belief in the political system.
Murthy and Sreedharan have done more than setting up admirable organizations, they have created sustainable institutions. Infosys has a wellspring of talent that has more or less flourished through multiple CEO transitions since Murthy stepped down nearly a decade ago.
Sreedharan built modern India’s engineering marvel, the Delhi Metro network. Although he has stepped down, construction of the next phase continues at full speed. A generation of engineers who believe in India’s ability to set up infrastructure has been created. Infosys and the Delhi Metro both stand as proof that India can build world-class institutions. Murthy’s and Sreedharan’s reputations are beyond reproach. Infosys was globally recognized for corporate governance. In New Delhi, the capital of the country and corruption, Delhi Metro stands out for its clean image. They created and nurtured successful institutions with integrity.
I have to add a personal story of Murthy’s legendary frugality and integrity. One September weekend, I found myself unexpectedly in New York during a United Nations General Assembly session. If you have had the misfortune of visiting New York during that time then you know it’s impossible to get a hotel room, and so I found myself in a rather unsavoury hotel in Times Square. To my surprise, Murthy was also there. I said hello and he noted that it was tough to get a hotel room in NYC. I found myself thinking that there had to be a billionaires club, where they can call each other up and say, “Hey Ratan (Tata), I am in town for a weekend, can I get a room in your hotel?" or “Hey Bill (Gates), do you mind if I crash in your Central Park apartment?" Beyond a questionable case of bedbugs, I felt awed that weekend by Murthy’s decency. Murthy did not use his power and influence for his own gain.
The true power of the President is limited and like most of us I have little idea about what the vice-president actually does. But President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s tenure showed that you can certainly inspire a nation. His belief in India inspired the young and old that India can change for the better. Today, our bureaucrats and businessmen could use a similar dose of confidence building. I am sure that Sreedharan would find a useful way to engage the civil services if he gets the post. Wouldn’t Murthy’s advice be welcome for Indian and foreign businesses given the crisis in confidence for Indian business? Infosys has managed to grow earnings and revenues through the peaks and troughs of the last two decades. While foreign investors and companies run scared from India, who better to convince them of its long-term prospects?
Their personal stories and commitment to India and the larger ideals of ethics and integrity make Murthy and Sreedharan the perfect combination of success and inspiration for India. They are unlikely to run for office given their age and lack of a political base, but that doesn’t mean India couldn’t use their talents. In an interview this week, Sreedharan said: “India has politicians, but lacks statesmen." What better statesmen for India than Murthy and Sreedharan, India’s dynamic duo?
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Prashant Agrawal, a principal at a management consultancy, writes on public policy issues in India and internationally.
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