Even great leaders like Karunanidhi, Indira Gandhi and Atal Behari Vajpayee have tasted defeat, but they learnt from their mistakes.
Criticism follows defeat. Rahul Gandhi, N. Chandrababu Naidu, and Mamata Banerjee’s political abilities are under scrutiny. But in politics, losing an election is a temporary setback, not a write-off. Like in sports, you win some, lose some. You work harder the next time, you don’t quit.
Prime Minister Narender Modi is the hero, after leading his party to a great win in the 2019 elections. Sadly, leaders like Congress president Rahul Gandhi, West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee and former AP chief minister and Telugu Desam Party chief Chandrababu Naidu, whose respective parties got a drubbing in the electoral battle, are being severely criticised for their party’s downfall, and expected to step down as party leaders.
Mr Gandhi said he will quit, but the party didn’t accept his resignation. Ditto Banerjee. Mr Naidu is criticised for not grooming a “second rung leader to take the party forward”.
While it’s nice to have a “second leader in command”, there’s no need for leaders to step down taking full responsibility for the loss. Like in sports, in politics too, you win and lose. When you lose, you work harder for the next game, you don’t stop playing!
Mr Naidu agrees. He states that elections are a part and parcel in a democratic set up, and that winning and losing is a natural phenomenon. “You win some elections and lose some, but the key factor is learn from the past mistakes. Self-assessment and constant review will take you forward,” he said, while addressing his partymen recently.
But, the important observation here is none of the above parties have a second rung leader. If Mr Gandhi wants to step down, who is the able person to take over? No name thrown up yet. Same is the case with Ms Banerjee and Mr Naidu.
Both sports and politics, are driven by long haul careers. There is no need to ask leaders who lost to step down. Says cricket analyst Ayaz Memon, sports and politics are demanding professions, questioning the leadership after a failure is a natural consequence. M.S. Dhoni too, despite his super performance as a cricketer, has come under the scanner after India failed to defend the 2015 World Cup. “Just because you won a cricket series, doesn’t put you on top. It’s a continuous process. You lose some too. Every game is a new battle. Likewise, if you lose an election, there’s no need to panic. In both professions, as you progress, minimising errors and maxmising strengths and potential will be significant. I have seen several captains being dumped after a series defeat but what’s equally fundamental is to have a second-run leader to lead the attack,” Ayaz says.
Mental strength and ability to bounce back are considered to be a great asset. Sports psychologist John Hemanth who trained several Olympic athletes says that he ensures players become mentally strong as it helps them to be independent and they need not depend on coach, parents or peers. “Success and defeat are part of life; the successful ones are those who constantly keep learning in hindsight,” Hemanth explains, adding, “Most of the athletes get carried away — they get overwhelmed after a victory and feel dejected in a defeat. There’s no balanced approach towards the profession. As a result, players are unable to learn and handle crisis independently.”
Even great leaders like Karunanidhi, Indira Gandhi and Atal Behari Vajpayee have tasted defeat, but they learnt from their mistakes. The BJP, which has over 300 seats today, once had only two seats in Parliament!
Senior political analyst Bandaru Srinivas Rao observes that in politics and sports, willingness to learn, patience and the hunger to win are the key factors for a long innings.