Two thousand eighteen is not a Brahmagupta-formula, which marks just numerical change. It is the abacus of a new social, economic, business and political dynamics in Indian public life. For many, 2018 is the beginning of yet another year of opportunities and prosperity. For others, it holds the prospects of more despair and disappointments. However, every New Year does begin with a date, month and year. At the stroke of midnight, leaders from all walks of life will keep their trysts with fresh resolutions. If 2017 was a year of confrontationist cacophony, will 2018 be a year of Constructive Consensus and Cooperation rather than one of venomous verbosity? Here are a few resolutions Indian leaders could follow:
Narendra Modi: "I will now spend more time listening to people". The Prime Minister has been thinking out of the box from 2014 to 2017. He is perhaps the only political leader who has given more ideas through speeches and interventions than any other visionary in the world. But so far, it has been one-way communication with the masses using the marvels of technology and the power of podiums. Though he has put in place a robust feedback mechanism, there is no substitute for personal interaction with the stakeholders of the India story.
Modi would only add to his extensive knowledge base if he initiates state level meetings with a credible group of selected people from the world of academics, politics and business as well as professionals. For his new India mission, he should put in place a dedicated team of implementers who have an eye for detail but abjure publicity. In 2018, the prime minister needs a TEAM-Modi, which can complement him in aggression and execution rather than riding his coat tails to victory.
Sonia Gandhi: "I will intervene and not interfere" is a good new year political resolution for her. After being Congress President for 19 years, Sonia has stepped down to become an ordinary party worker; albeit the most powerful one. The old guard of the 137-year-old GOP is wary of her son assuming complete control of the outfit without checks and balances. While Rahul was checking into her office, Sonia was cycling in Goa as if she had ridden away from the political circus. But the dual responsibility of being a mother to her son and mentor to her party will force her to be the connector between the old and the young. Her resolve should be to become the invisible hand, which guides without handholding the new leader.
M Karunanidhi: "I will follow Sonia Gandhi’s path of political renunciation by handing over the DMK’s baton to my son M K Stalin" should be the veteran Dravidian warhorse’s last political act before 2018 dawns as an allegory of his party symbol, the Rising Sun. For the past few years, Stalin has been the DMK's Working President. The kalaignar is mentally agile but his enfeebled physical movement has crippled the growth of his party and hampers the authority of his would-be successor.
Mamata Banerjee: "In 2018, I will ensure genuine secularism in West Bengal by keeping an equidistance from all religions". To uphold this vow, the feisty Chief Minister will have to abandon her populist policy of minority appeasement. Since her personal popularity is intact, especially in rural Bengal, an image makeover would redefine Brand Mamata to remain a key player in national politics.
Naveen Patnaik: "I will actively communicate with my electorate not only through work but also with words" would be the ideal New Year resolution for Odisha’s Chief Minister who has completed 20 years in office, thereby creating an incumbency record in his state. As he seeks a fifth mandate in 2018, he has a plethora of stories of achievements to tell his party workers and voters. He could also add a task to his to-do list—create an equally effective successor who can assist him in carrying forward his vision and mission with the same positive synergy.
Sharad Pawar: "I will retire from full time politics and let my successor choose an alliance between either Rahul Gandhi or Narendra Modi" should be the appropriate course of action for the Maratha leader. The NCP boss is being blamed for the BJP's victory—though with a narrow margin—in Gujarat. Even his friends and supporters are confused about both his succession plan and relationship with the Congress, Shiv Sena and the BJP. If he wishes for his political legacy to survive and thrive in Maharashtra, he will have to abandon the ambivalence and take a clear position for the future.
Akhilesh Yadav: "I will prove that a dynasty label is not required to become a successful leader" should be his motto. The former UP chief minister hasn’t been able to get out of his father Mulayam Singh's shadow fully. His 2018 resolution should be to marginalise the hold of his family members over the party but also ensure the de-Yadavisation of the Samajawadi Party if he wants to succeed in 2019. Since age is on his side, he should be targeting youth leaders with rural connect to increase his popular vote share.
Chandrababu Naidu: "I will not follow the policy of me, mine and my caste. I will also shun my love for everything foreign" would be the most politically correct resolution for the Andhra Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu whose salt and pepper beard and enigmatic smile hide a steely will. His critics often ridicule his yen for the foreign and foreigners. They allege Naidu has accumulated more air miles by travelling abroad rather than touring his own state. They question why he prefers the company of CEOs of Multinational Corporations than listening to middle level entrepreneurs from his home state.
Virat Kohli: "I will keep breaking my own records" would be the ultimate New Year resolution for the Indian captain whose bat doesn't stop humiliating bowlers by crossing boundaries and making centuries. After marrying an actor with both beauty and brains, Virat should try to strike a balance between his first love cricket and heartbeat Anushka. As he summates his record of centuries he could perhaps add a new member to his family. But the glam couple could prove the world wrong by exploding the myth that marriage minimises the stardom and skills of achievers like them.
Anil Ambani: The pledge of the embattled younger son of Dhirubhai Ambani would be “I will live up to my father's reputation. I will once again build a new empire from scratch.” Having fallen behind his elder brother Mukesh Ambani whose Midas touch has made him India’s most formidable billionaire, Anil is certain to wind up all his loss making ventures in 2018. With the blessings of his superpower sibling, he will attempt to be Asia's largest producer of Defence Aircraft and ancillary equipment within the next five years. His New Year resolve could make him an invisible corporate predator on the prowl.