New Delhi: A government is meant to govern. It is supposed to take decisions. Individuals take decisions for themselves. They have no choice in the matter. But when certain decisions are beyond the scope of individuals to take, they elect a government to do so. So decision-making essentially characterizes government. A government cannot be called a government that cannot or won’t take decisions. By that token, Manmohan Singh’s government is not a government at all.

Collective or government decisions are naturally different from decisions taken by individuals. Government decisions have to benefit all citizen individuals or at least the maximum number. Government decisions, moreover, must serve the present and remain useful in the long-term. They have to be popular without being populist and sometimes harsh for the future profitability and prosperity of those who have ceded part of their decision-making rights to the elected government.

A government that is able to manage all these contradictions and variables is called a good government. A good government is usually rewarded with re-election and exceptional ones are even given a successive third term. Since defeat is as likely and more often the norm, there persists an enduring pressure to perform. Extraneous non-governance factors do play the spoiler sometimes but nevertheless possess diminishing weight. Governance finds itself privileged more than ever.

Governance is a creative activity. It is certainly inferior to the arts because it does not have its immortality (25 years from now, discerning people will still watch the 1971 classic, Anubhav), and remains subordinate to wealth creation too, but it has its merits all the same. A special talent is required to make a success of governance and it demands leadership of the highest calibre.

Politics covers and drives this expansive decision-making process from the level of the individual to the collective and this, in turn, is subdivided into domains such as economics, internal and external security, finance, diplomacy, healthcare, education, and so on. It requires unique skills to make and manage all the various kinds of decisions (economic, military, financial, diplomatic, etc) that advance the interests of the collective and to extract gain from all the good work done by way of re-election. Only a few succeed in this perilous enterprise and they are said to be gifted with leadership genius.

A political leader is fundamentally different from the chief executive officer of a large corporation. At least in theory, a business administration degree from a leading university and trade experience could make you suitable to head a company. You may run it down but that is beside the point. But there is no school or college that, for a certainty, turns out great political leaders. On the other hand, Winston Churchill started out a soldier, and he was, to boot, poor in school studies. A dynastic background may assist to clear the initial hurdles but exposure comes early as in Rajiv Gandhi’s case ahead of the half-term. Politics can only be learnt the hard way, at the level of the grassroots, where individuals elect a government to take decisions for them. Winning popular elections to Parliament or to the state assemblies means obtaining their approval to govern. By that definition, a technocrat who worms his way into the Rajya Sabha is neither a politician nor fit to govern.

No wonder Manmohan Singh is such a colossal failure. If decision-making defines government and Manmohan Singh, because he has not risen from the grassroots, is unable or unwilling to take decisions, how is he fit to lead the government? Since politics animates and mediates all decisions and Manmohan Singh does not enjoy a commanding rank in that realm, he is in no position to be decisive. Trained as an economist, he is narrowly identified with one domain of government decisions. Not only is his domain in deep distress which reflects on his training and expertise (last heard, he was squabbling with the Reserve Bank governor in public over fundamentals of economics), he cannot even begin to remedy the situation because he has no control over politics which decides everything. It is hopeless for the country under Manmohan Singh.

But the bigger despair pertains to the Congress party. Its fear of itself and the dread of imminent demise have paralysed its decision-making capacity and capability. In his person, Rahul Gandhi incarnates that paralysis, but it extends as well to Sonia Gandhi’s risk-averseness. Neither mother nor son nor the party can take decisions any longer. The Congress will not take a decision to project Rahul Gandhi as prime minister because he and the party fear Narendra Modi and are terrified of failure. They even fear opposing Modi nationally and have commenced the farce of the Gujarat party unit mouthing inanities against him. And the Congress party won’t remove Manmohan Singh despite his obvious failure since it will rock the boat for Rahul Gandhi’s succession.

The point is that nothing will change with the Congress now or in the future. It has got into a blue funk about taking decisions. Even though it leads the government, it is not a party of governance. Basically, it does not want to govern. It prefers anarchy to governance, because then it will not be held accountable. It remains in government to loot. In anarchic conditions, loot is easier. It will not give up power because it is not through with looting. It has betrayed its commitment to the collective. It has cheated on the contract with the people to take decisions for their welfare. And this will go on, this cheating and loot and betrayal, till it is finally and decisively thrown out of power.