We hear a lot about arrogance in Indian political leaders, and when many of them accuse each other of same malady, it appears the term has lost its significance. Dictionaries have defined it as haughtiness, hubris or posing superiority but in reality it has many faces and one definition does not do justice to the rise of these phenomena in the politics these days. It has become indistinguishable as to who is real arrogant and who is not. Is Rahul arrogant or Modi is indulging in arrogance or Sonia appears as such? If we carefully study the behaviour of all these leaders, it indicates they are doing the same thing, i.e. considering others inferior while retaining an air of superiority or authority. I studied to classify and expose the masks that reveal their real motivations.
Aristocratic arrogance type of arrogance is commonly found in royal personages but politicians are full of it. Chou En lai while talking of world leaders he had met said about Jawaharlal Nehru, “I have never met a more arrogant man than Nehru.” It is reported by Sankar Ghose in the biography. China being bitter could be understood but even a literary giant like Pablo Neruda said that when he met him he appeared “high and mighty, accustomed to giving orders, lacking strength of a leader”. No doubt, he was very popular with masses and he loved them, but in his behaviour individually, he displayed an air of superiority or indifference as he did while telling Dr Radhakrishnan, the then President, that he need not go for the funeral of former President Rajinder Prasad.
It was cruel to make such a suggestion and rightly Dr Radhakrishnan ignored it.
His family including Indira Gandhi, Sanjay Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and now Rahul Gandhi too display the same trait. Rahul after his meditational training has not improved, rather got worse and grown more arrogant. First sign was when he tore off an ordinance of his government at the Press Club and embarrassed the meek Prime Minister. Now he prides himself as the disrupter of Parliament and boasts in public rallies that Modi was selling their land to friends and he blocked it.
Second type is worst and I would call it manipulative arrogance. Arvind Kejriwal and Nitish Kumar specialise in this lethal operation when they destroy others while pretending to be innocent or simpletons. With muffler and monkish look Kejriwal conveyed to pubic that he is humble but he ruthlessly threw out Yogender Yadav and Prashant Bhushan and manipulated entire organisation to his command. He starts blaming others when he is failing to do something and these days he calls police Modi’s police. He misbehaved with the head of the government and everyone around while pretending to hold high his principles which he never cared and could sacrifice any day. He is doing it in Punjab and so long he commands he has no problem. Couple of his ministers are in jail for moral crimes but he claims honesty and transparency. Nitish is his fellow traveller in this style: He dumped BJP as he was not pleased with denial of potential of becoming PM and brought Manjhi in as a stooge and rubber stamp. When Manjhi stood up, he threw him out and again occupied the throne. Now he is fighting election and in order to put people of Bihar against Modi he mischievously twisted the phrase as insult to Bihar as DNA is doubted. Modi never said it and he used DNA of the party but Nitish painted him insulting his state while Modi was simply questioning his political background. Now in a diabolic exercise, he starts campaign to collect thousand of hair and nails of Biharis to send them to Modi for testing. It is sheer quixotic, throwing dust in the eyes of public. For him, Nitish is Bihar. Both Kejriwal and Nitish are engineers but they start directing their arrogance to engineer the fall of opponents by hook or crook. Both pretend morality and transparency but in reality they are accused of sins of fraud and deceit.
Third kind of arrogance can be called egoistic arrogance–these people are proud and self-conscious of their superiority. One can count Mamta and Modi in this class. Mamta refused to attend Modi’s coronation and made intemperate remarks against him. She is known for tantrums. Modi boasts of 56-inch chest, walks like Gir lion and his posture is threatening even when he does not talk. In his public speeches, he tears opponents apart with epithets like Maan bête ki sarkar and hawalabaaz or Congress mukt Bharat. His presence is exudes power and bullied expression scares many.
Fourth kind is frustrated arrogance–these people think they are big and they are getting no attention or they have not got rightful position. LK Advani and Shatrughan Sinha are eminently qualified to be in this class although there are many more. While Sinha has a lot of experience of villainy due to long performance of such roles in movies, this time in politics he is doing theatrics to meet Nitish Kumar and talking of who should be CM of the state and questioning openly leadership of Modi and then regretting, still stinging in the end. He is acting too big for his boots, yet he displays a villainess mushy smile.
His guru Advani is more mature but equally frustrated to voice his aggression in oblique remarks. He has asked others to learn from AB Vajpayee humility but forgot that when Modi, before being declared PM candidate, touched his feet, he was looking other way and totally ignoring him. He erupts with sporadic but suppressed anger now and then.
There are some leaders who can be called comic arrogant. They annihilate others by comedy or silence leading to numerous cartoons and jokes. The best example is Lalu Prasad Yadav. Recently when Amit Sah was stuck up in a lift at Patna, Lalu quipped, “Bihar lifts are not made for fat men.” He chided him for coming to Bihar. His mimic of Modi and rustic talks are really noxious weapons to demolish others. His arrogance was supreme when he said, “Rivals dub me a joker and clown, but sociology department of Harvard University is doing research on me as to how I achieved this position.” A man who is convicted for corruption and is on bail continues to regale the audience while indulging in mocking attacks on rivals. Manmohan Singh is sober and quiet man but his cartoons are doing roaring business. The best is when he is with dentist who asks him Ab to munh kholo. Scams took place during his tenure and he kept quiet posing ignorance as if he was in Himalaya when scams flourished in his government. His posture of a dumb, witless silence is funny but really makes fun of others as he refuses to reveal his mind and continues with his meekest servile but indifferent look even when attacked for corruption during his tenure. He seems to be telling others: “Go to hell, I don’t care as far as Madame is happy.”
Arrogance has many faces and some are apparent but many are hidden with suppressed aggression. It is revealing to uncover the camouflaged faces.
By NK singh
(The author is former Chairman of AAI.)