The Modi versus Rahul battle reminds me of the Dhirubhai versus Nusli Wadia battle!



To me, this latest Narendra Modi versus Rahul Gandhi battle is definitely looking more like a circus with every passing day. And in this circus, a number of Congress and BJP spokespersons are looking like jokers; as are a lot of media personalities who are salivating at the prospect of an American Presidential style election – which this surely isn’t. However, yes, the more this debate is becoming bitterer, aggressive, and cantankerous, the more are the viewers watching it! So American style elections or not, this circus is certainly becoming entertaining! And say what I may, none of us can escape this circus till the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Television channels have in fact started live telecasts of speeches being delivered by Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi.

Like in a Hindi blockbuster, there is this likable guy who was born with many silver, gold and diamond spoons. He is a child of dynasty and privilege and has the power to actually make a difference. Opposing him is a person from a humble, lower caste background who has broken through barriers of caste, privilege and much more. He has had to struggle every inch of the way against all odds to achieve all that he has. And of course, he has got the most loquacious of critics all around and is called the worst of things – from ‘maut ka saudagar’ to ‘Yamraj’! It is truly like a David versus Goliath battle.

While the Congress and the UPA have completely let the nation and the voters down in a disgraceful manner over the last few years, it almost looks as if there really is no hope for India because the opposition parties led by the BJP are so helplessly weak and divided that India might have to actually endure the horror of yet another UPA regime. However, in the middle of all this, I must admit that Narendra Modi is someone that Indian politics has probably never seen. He seems to be keen on destroying the cozy relationship that the Delhi establishment has enjoyed for decades. This Delhi establishment that I allude to includes the media. And this, I feel, calls for a comparative analysis for sure!

Being from a management background, when I thought of comparing these two individuals, the first thought that came to my mind was: isn’t Modi like Dhirubhai Ambani and Rahul like Nusli Wadia? It actually is a tempting comparison. Nusli Wadia is the child of privilege, a person who could and can claim dynastic privileges at any time. He inherited a vast fortune and a business empire that included the famous Bombay Dyeing brand of textiles. I remember my relatives actually insisting on buying Bombay Dyeing bedsheets and towels. And then there was this upstart called Dhirubhai Ambani from Gujarat who came to Bombay in search of a dream. I really don’t know the real story but colleagues tell me that Nusli Wadia allegedly humiliated Ambani in some social gatherings. At that time, Ambani was just a trader who was trying to import polyester yarn and make a profit. As we all know, Dhirubhai had a vision that went beyond the import of yarn. In that era of fighting for a license for every economic activity, Ambani had realized that he had to go to Delhi to sort out out his Bombay problems.

That was the time when the Bombay Dyeing scrip, despite being a very important part of the Bombay Stock Exchange index, lost the war to the Reliance Industries stock that had become a hot favourite of investors. Bombay Dyeing has since long, lost its place in the Sensex while Reliance is a barometer of the stock exchange. Relatively speaking, nobody talks about Nusli Wadia nowadays or discusses how the Wadia group might be going global; but the late Dhirubhai Ambani was and continues to be considered an icon of entrepreneurship. The man who was mocked at and reviled by the elites of Bombay once upon a time became so successful that his inheritors have reportedly sometimes claimed that they can influence any decision in Delhi. And there lies the delicious irony. Dhirubhai was a man from a relatively poor background who used his talent – and the freedom that India offers – to make the world understand what a person from Gujarat could do. In case you forgot, Modi too is from Gujarat; and to me today, Rahul Gandhi is like the Nusli Wadia who came from a privileged background, yet eventually lost to an upstart like Ambani who started representing the new and aspirational India. The Ambani story is already a legend and the manner in which he fought and won against Nusli Wadia is a delight for seekers of legend.

However, as I make the Ambani versus Wadia comparison, I also realize that not all stories need have a similar ending. Of course, the story of Dhirubhai is inspirational for most entrepreneurs. But then, does everyone taking on the establishment succeed? Will this anti-establishment story also make history the way the Ambani-Wadia battle did? And most importantly, will we see a real new Bharat emerge in case the challenger to the establishment wins? A lot remains to be seen yet in this Modi versus Rahul battle!

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