Political Scientist | Author
Vinay Sitapati returns to the Play to Potential Podcast on the back of his recently published book - Jugalbandi - The BJP before Modi. The book begins with the creation of Hindu nationalism as a response to British-induced elections in the 1920s and moves on to the formation of the BJP in 1980 and ends with its first national government, from 1998 to 2004. The book also traces the entangled lives of its founding leaders Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani. Vinay digs into various moments to really understand what made their six decade relationship tick. He teases out the secret recipe behind their cohesiveness despite twists and turns in their respective fortunes. He says that what kept them together was fraternal love, professional synergy and, above all, an ideology that stressed on unity. This podcast is for information and learning purposes only. All content and opinions expressed in this podcast are that of the guests and are not necessarily the opinions of Deepak Jayaraman or Transition Insight Private Limited (TIPL). Deepak Jayaraman and TIPL do not have any political affiliations or associations of any sort and this conversation is intended to be a non-partisan interaction. Published in Dec 2020.
Nuggets from the
The uniqueness of the Advani-Vajpayee relationship
Vinay puts the Vajpayee – Advani relationship in perspective. He speaks about how they had two occasions where the power equation flipped completely. He shares other examples to illustrate how special this dynamic is when you compare it to most other relationships at the top across disciplines.
Managing transitions when power flips
Vinay speaks about how the two phases of transition played out when the power shifted between Vajpayee and Advani. He speaks about the how the transitions were not sudden and how the two leaders handled themselves in the situation.
What binds the RSS together
Vinay speaks about how RSS has been able to create a tight bond amongst its members. He attributes it to the requirement of the RSS pracharaks to be Brahmacharyas (stay single) while their emphasis on family-like values in the organization. He speaks about how this has helped them attract talented people into the organization and avoid the pitfalls of dynastic politics.
RSS and McKinsey
Vinay speaks about how RSS wires up its members in a certain way through the various things it does as an organization. He likens it to McKinsey, the Consulting firm in the way the firm installs a certain Operating System which often endures (I can vouch for it as an alumnus) in the way we think and act long after we have left the organization.
Managing diversity and handling disagreements
Vinay speaks about how the RSS and BJP use the interpretation of history to create a certain purpose for the institution which is beyond the individual. He also speaks about some of the institutional norms that ensure that the organization stays cohesive and there isn’t unnecessary “chatter”. He also uses the term “sulking on mute” to denote how leaders would disagree yet commit to a chosen path putting the institutional interests ahead of theirs.
Getting comfortable with contradictions
Vinay speaks about the many layers of Vajpayee and how he had several contradictions within. He goes on to speak about great leaders and how we have to study them in a non-linear fashion for us to make sense of them.
The dynamics of Jugalbandi
Vinay speaks about some of the nuances involved in the way Advani and Vajpayee handled their personal and professional relationship. He speaks about how they often put the Hindu Nationalist agenda (as cultivated given their formative years in the RSS) might have acted as a glue that might have held them together over the long term despite their differences.
Making sense of complexity
Vinay speaks about how tactful politicians like Vajpayee understand the notion of an “Overton Window”, a skill that CEOs need more and more as the levels of complexity compound in the world we live in.
Managing hierarchy and merit
Vinay speaks about how RSS balanced the notion of hierarchy (that is so prevalent in the Indian context across various organizations) with the need to be meritorious to create a culture that brought the best of both worlds in the way it shaped the culture.