Monday, December 15, 2014

Big people do small things and lose everything? Why do power-lust, greed, ego rule the world?

Why does N. Srinivasan hang on to his cricket chair when every milligram of his credibility is gone? Why did Manmohan Singh cling to prime ministership even after he was reduced to an object of ridicule? Why did Rampal order pitched battles against the police leading to the death of at least five women and a child when he didn't have a chance in hell of winning? Why did Rajat Gupta, such a celebrated management icon, do insider trading that landed him in a US prison? Why did Subrata Roy, an innovative genius and buddy of everyone who mattered, find himself in Tihar?

Questions without answers pile up around us. In politics, business, sports and even spirituality, big people do small things unworthy of their position. Not only do they not gain anything, they actually lose their prestige and often their way of life. Does the explanation lie in philosophy? There is consolation of sorts in the poetic precept that all human things are subject to decay, and when fate summons, monarchs must obey. Was it the summons of fate that led to the fall of Subrata Roy and Rampal, of Manmohan Singh and Srinivasan?

The former Primer Minister and the cricket tzar are unique, though in opposite ways; the one had public sympathy pouring out for him, while the other was covered with disgrace. The considerateness Manmohan Singh received was spontaneous because of his nature and the circumstances of his mortification. Here was a man who stood tall on two pedestals: goodness as a human being and international eminence as an economist. Being apolitical, he needed political backing to do well in an essentially political setup. He got this when he teamed up with P.V.Narasimha Rao -- and he reached heights of glory. He did not get similar backing when he teamed up with Sonia Gandhi whose agenda was family-oriented. To the extent she did her job well, to that extent Manmohan Singh's job was compromised.

Only once during his 10-year term did Dr. Singh find the courage to stand up for what he thought right. Even then, he stood up against the Left Front, not against Sonia Gandhi. The Left had threatened to withdraw support to his Government over the US nuclear deal. Facing the prospect of the Government not having the numbers to pass the bill, the Prime Minister decided to resign and conveyed his decision to Sonia and Pranab Mukherjee at a secret meeting in the Prime Minister's house. Eventually the PM had his way because the Samajwadi Party switched policy and supported the Government. In historical terms, though, the victory was nothing big because of the controversial nature of the nuclear deal. It did nothing to correct the image of Manmohan Singh as an inconsequential Prime Minister.

N. Srinivasan is an assertive personality in contrast to the ever-yielding Manmohan Singh. While Indian cricket has been a bedlam of personality clashes, conspiracies, manipulations and politics of the meanest kind, no one took it to the "me-first" depths that Srinivasan contrived. There were several occasions when shenanigans around him were exposed and he could have withdrawn with dignity. But he chose to fight even the Supreme Court's unambiguous remarks.

"You are presuming there is nothing against you", said the Supreme Court. "You can't use BCCI rules to say you will stand for elections because the doctrine of public trust will apply". Even more pointedly, it said: "The ownership of the team raises conflict of interest. [Srinivasan is the managing director of India Cements which owns the Chennai Super Kings; its captain, M. S. Dhoni, is Vice President of India Cements.] President of the BCCI has to run the show but you have a team". Such castigations would be sufficient for an honourable man to quietly leave the scene. But Srinivasan is always looking for a tiny loophole somewhere in the labyrinth of law. Even if he finds one, he will remain in the record books as the man under whom Indian cricket was shamed by what Bishan Singh Bedi called "abnormal hunger for power and insatiable greed for money".

Duryodhana was holding out a lesson for all of us when he confessed that he knew what was dharma but had no urge to follow it. It was only in humans that the Creator planted such cosmic contradictions. All religions warn against ego. Sikhism includes it in one of the Panch Dosh, five evils. Taoism equates enlightenment with the annihilation of the ego. But ego rules the world.