Why Narayana Murthy will make a poor President

ASHWINI A. writes: The Cauvery Tribunal’s final award has ignited feelings, passions, emotions in the State. For 50 days now, we have seen individuals and institutions, register their shock and protest in their own way. True, some of the Public Display of Anger has been ugly but almost everybody has had an opinion on the issue, and has not been afraid to air it.

All, except, it seems, three honourable Members of Parliament elected from our very own Karnataka. To wit, “Dr” (!) Vijay Mallya, M.A.M. Ramaswamy and Rajeev Chandrashekar. Yes, the last named did make some noises but it appeared more of an afterthought for public consumption, for he has promptly gone into hiding again.

What, for example, is the stand of Mallya? King of good times, shrewd businessman, multi-billionaire, etc etc. He is a son of the Cauvery soil. He is a member of the Rajya Sabha from the State. He is supposed to represent the people and interests of the State. What is his opinion on Cauvery ? Nobody has a clue.

Perhaps, like Marie Antoinette, he believes, “If they can’t have Cauvery water, let them have Kingfisher beer.”

But what he does he think of an issue that is so important to millions of people of the State whose representatives elected him? Are people not obliged to know what is going through his mind? Does he think injustice has been done? Does he plan to raise the issue in Parliament? Does he have a solution?

Will Mallya take a stand? I doubt it. Because he is afraid that the moment he says anything pro-Karnataka, the Tamils will take to streets asking people to stop drinking UB and Bagpiper, stop flying Kingfisher Airlines, and do things that will hurt Mallya business interests in that state.

If Mallya says anything that is seen as anti-Karnataka, one does not have tell what the consequences will be.

Ditto M/s Ramaswamy and Chandrashekhar the better. Our MLAs and MLCs bent backwards and bent every rule in the book to elect them. Yet, what does their silence eloquently say on a vital issue like Cauvery?

Put more bluntly, why does Karnataka have to suffer such public representatives?

The larger point I am trying to make is : Businesmen make lousy public representative. In fact, they are very impotent when it comes to handling issues that affects the public. They must, therefore, stop wanting to become MPs, Ministers, etc.

Whatever opinion you hold of politicians—they may be corrupt, scheming, cunning—they are at least available when people need them and can take a stand, right or wrong, without fearing the consequences.

This leads me to my final point: Businesmen are good conducting their business—no more, no less.

Their success and leadership is confined to their area of work and domain (campus). Once they are out of the comforts/challenges of their expertise and in public life space, they come a cropper as they have their business interests to protect—and that always seem to come before the public interest.

The same applies to Infosys’ N.R. Narayana Murthy whom the middle class in India and some armchair columnists and journalists consider as a “beacon of hope” among other allied nonsense.

Since his name is being tossed up, quite irresponsibly I think, for becoming President after A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, I think it’s time to debate this whole issue of corporate leaders being unfit and even dangerous being in public life. We should even consider a law barring such people from holding public office.

The Cauvery crisis gives the world a good opportunity to learn that the successes of corporate leaders are often limited to their large campuses, often grabbed from poor people and illiterate farmers, and that they are duds when they have take a stand on issues that means life or death to the people at large.