Ravinder Pal Siddhu of the Punjab Public Service Commission, I think, tops the list. There was a time when service commissions were positions of respect, not any more. Its actually shameful how somebody at a post like Siddhus could get into such a huge scandal. And what is worse is the fact that the scandal ran right from top ranking officers to the lowly paid staff. In fact, people back in Punjab were telling me how he took money to employ peoples sons. Its disgraceful for a person in a position like his to indulge in something so lowly. There were other high-ranking officers involved as well. This is endemic corruption. Can you imagine the state of affairs in the country
Narendra Modi is of course a villain and the less said about him the better. What can you say about a man like him What happened in Ahmedabad was the biggest example of state organised violence. And its difficult to believe it happened in the same land where Gandhi was born. People are full of venom today. And can you believe things have come to a situation where he actually organised a Gaurav Yatra What is worse, the government is supporting him! And now he has won the elections, too. I would have celebrated if he had lost because a man like him has no right to be in politics.
And then there is Prakash Togadia of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. Here is a man using uncivilised language like Italian bitch and he is actually being supported. What is worse is he gets away with it and then we say we are a civilised society. This is the lowest form of public decency that could be stooped to. There was a time when leaders were respected, but today What language is this, what way of addressing a meeting In fact, Id say he is actually the author of all the killings in Gujarat. What is worse is these people are called leaders.
But of course, everything is not gray. There are some prominent people, heroes and heroines, Id call them, who actually are the leaders of the future.
Omar Abdullah is a man to watch out for. This boy is so brilliant, hes got this great sense of balance and clarity. The way he speaks, the way he carries himself, everything about him speaks of conviction. Hes got things in perspective. In fact, I think the dignity with which he took the defeat in the Jammu and Kashmir elections is remarkable. Its a great thing in fact that in our country, where the majority of Muslims still
feel unsafe, here is a man who is making the Kashmiris feel at home. Omar is definitely a future leader, a man to watch out for.
Then there is Mufti Mehbooba. Its a great thing for her to have come to the stage she has. In fact, more than the father, I think, the daughter deserves praise. To think of the opposition and hardships she must have faced to come to the position she has makes her a strong, young woman. And what adds up is her being a woman and in the community she comes from. Shes left behind her burqa and purdah, Id say, is the worst form of subjugation, of backwardness. She is a woman of today and should be another face to look out for.
And then, I have a rather reluctant hero, one who has all the makings of a great leader, but is getting caught in kattarpanti (orthodoxy) and that is the reason I call him a reluctant hero Id call him a hero and am yet a little reluctant. Arun Shourie is a clean, honest and an extremely noble man, the kind of stuff great leaders are made of. Hes got this rare combination of qualitieshes well read, hes honestbut Im only worried about saffronisation. Hes getting tinges of it, but if he manages to stay out of it, he is a leader to watch out for. His role in disinvestment this year, for example, was remarkable. This is one man to watch out for.
Well, that is my list. One hopes we have more heroes than villains in 2003.
As told to Prachi Raturi
Mr Singh is a celebrated columnist and author.