'In India, the states are brothers and
there is no divorce
Cho Ramaswamy, actor, commentator,
journalist, and now television personality, discusses the
state of India 50 years after it won freedom.
A candid conversation on India's leaders, its people, its
future, and, of course, corruption and liberalisation,
with Shobha Warrier.
Why is it that today's leaders restrict themselves to a particular
It is the weakness of the leader of today that is posing the
danger because he cannot operate in a wider field as he knows
he is not equipped for that. Because of his incapacity, he wants
to wield power in a small territory and make that as sovereign
as possible. That is why people demand separate states.
A Karunanidhi cannot appeal all over India, so he wants a separate
Tamil Nadu, if possible. He won't air it now but he would love
(to do) it. Then he would be the monarch of all that he surveyed.
Does that mean we don't have many leaders who have vision
and a national outlook?
Yes, it is a fact, but it is happening all over the country.
Only during big crises does leadership of vision emerge. Has France
got a de Gaulle now? Can even Mitterand be compared with de Gaulle?
Can Clinton be compared with Roosevelt? Can Major be compared
In every country, it is only during huge,
big crises that real leadership emerges. Then people forget all
other issues, all other ideological differences and look towards
the personality, to the strength and moral calibre of one man
and place faith in him totally.
Does that mean we are doomed to have leaders of this stature
for a long time to come?
Yes, yes, for a long time. Till a crisis strikes us. So, pray
for a crisis! We can take solace in the fact that other countries
are also facing a similar dearth of leadership. You see when
the power goes off in your house, you are upset, but when you look
through the window and see that your neighbour also does not have
power, you are satisfied. Like that, let's be happy in the fact
that others also do not have great leaders.
What, according to you, are the qualities that should be there
in a leader -- charisma, honesty or vision?
The ability to command the faith of large numbers of people.
Leaders of different styles have functioned. Kamaraj was authoritative,
he couldn't tolerate dissent for a long time. Nehru was also,
I think, similarly disposed. Still, they were able to carry people
with them. That is because people had faith in them.
There must be some transparency in the leader.
Do you admire any leader in present day India?
Among the leaders that we have, I have great admiration for
Advani and Chandra Shekhar.
Both of them are great patriots and have the interests of the
people at heart. They have a very clear perception of the problems
we have. Their vision is not confined to any particular region
Yes, yes. No doubt about it. I have had several discussions
with them, I have moved with them. I think, I understand them
and my opinion is that these are two leaders among the lot we
have now whom one would point out as leaders
inspiring some confidence in people.
Do you see them ruling the country?
Advani has chances. But (for) Chandra Shekhar to emerge, the
Congress must have vision. The Congress is a party without a leader,
and Chandra Shekhar is a leader without a party. They can complement
each other. If the Congress has vision, it should invite Chandra Shekhar.
He is capable of rejuvenating the Congress.
Earlier, we had charismatic leaders like Gandhi, Nehru, Patel,
Indira Gandhi and even Rajiv Gandhi. Why is it that we do not
have a charismatic leader now?
I don't think charisma could be easily defined. I don't think
any nation can hope to have charismatic leadership all the time.
As I said, it is only during crises that people start placing
immense faith in a leader, and only then does he become charismatic.
When people start becoming questioning, it is rather difficult
for a leader to enjoy charisma. When people start questioning,
he stops so big. It is happening the world over. People have become
more aware, and there is no implicit acceptance of leadership.
Is it because they don't have any faith in their leaders?
It is because they have more information. During the times
of the kings, people had no information. Now we are aware of our
rights, and we think it is dangerous to allow the leadership to
have unquestioned authority. That is our general attitude. This
is not the climate in which charismatic leadership can emerge.
You named Advani and Chandra Shekhar as two leaders who have
vision. Does that mean, in a situation where the BJP did not
come to power, and Chandra Shekhar is not invited by the Congress,
we will only have leaders who cannot think beyond their territory?
We were talking about leaders who are possible candidates for
the prime ministership. After all, he is only the head of an executive.
But we look at him as the leader of the nation. He keeps India
No prime minister all by himself can hold India together, however
powerful he may be. It is the minds of the people which keeps
India together. If tomorrow Karunanidhi, in spite of all his popularity,
seriously advocates separatism, people will reject him.
movement started some thirty years ago, but they have not been
able to sell the idea of division of the country to the people
of Tamil Nadu. What does it show? People want this country to
Tamil Nadu is considered to be a marginal problem
state in this matter. Not like Punjab or Kashmir but people
still think this state has to be watched. But the people of this
state have refused to buy that idea from the DMK, which they
vote to power. I tell you, they (the Dravidian parties) have been
in power all the time, still they have been able to sell the idea
because the people are not for it. That is what ensures the integrity
of the country, not the leadership at the Centre.
Recently at a meeting an American asked me, 'After all, Russia
has split into several countries. It has happened in Yugoslavia.
Why not in India?' he said, 'even a husband and wife have got
a right to separate.' I said it will not happen in India
because here in India the states are brothers and there is no divorce
between brothers. The relationship is not an artificially created
one, like that of a husband and a wife. It is a creation of
nature like between brothers. We are bound to be together.