Reflections

The lesser of two evils

There’s a game young teens in America play, where one person presents a scenario, suggests two unfavorable plans of action, and the other person has to decide which one they would “rather” go for, given the dilemma.

As election campaigning picks up speed here in India, I’m reminded of that game.

A picture on the front of today’s newspaper, “Civil and politically correct,” of Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate L.K Advani and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (Congress) sitting side by side, made me think of all the the people I’ve heard criticizing Singh’s leadership (or lack thereof) until now.

I know many people see Singh as weak, soft-spoken, and ineffective. As unattractive as these qualities are in a leader, I have to admit it’s also refreshing to see someone who’s not prone to pick fights around the clock, or so combatant that he can’t think straight. While Singh scores low with regard to assertiveness, even the polls show Indians consider Singh the most trustworthy leader, over Advani, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati, and Congress President Sonia Gandhi. Personally, I value honesty and sincerity more than I do decisiveness. And if strong leadership is what Singh is lacking, at least there’s Sonia Gandhi to give him a nudge in the (right?) direction. (But I also have to point out that the same poll shows votes don’t really feel any one of them is worth choosing over the other as a leader).

Plus just yesterday, papers reported that media persons were surprised at Singh’s aggressive stance against Advani’s hypocricy, because it is not usually his nature to dole out stinging remarks:

“Unlike the NDA’s prime ministerial candidate, I will not be found weeping in a corner while hoodlums tear down a centuries-old mosque. Nor will I be found wringing my hands in frustration while one of my Chief Ministers condones a pogrom targeted at minorities,” he said.

I know, I know. It’s easy to be aggressive when it’s simply against an opponent during election season and Singh’s bold speech should translate into action with regard to bold moves to protect national security. But it shows that Singh is human, and he does have it within him to at least put up a fight if needed. Perhaps his slow responses and inclination to avoid confrontation really stems from his preference to weigh out his options and maintain international relations. What could be interpreted as stupidity and inaction may really be consideration and diplomacy. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

(I’ll also admit, it may just be my weakness for Singh’s grandfatherly appearance that makes me have a soft spot for him.)

Still, when it comes down to supporting a national leader (which doesn’t actually apply to me as I am an American citizen, but for kicks…) although Singh’s leadership may not be the most ideal, given the choice between Advani and Singh, I would “rather” choose the more reasonable and level-headed Singh.

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