The Quest for Power and Authority

Power and leadership are vague and bewildering concepts that are mutually knotty to operate.

It should be highlighted that the mere use of the term power connotes something evil or discriminatory however it is universally acknowledged that the use of power is deeply ingrained in the social being that is the human. In politics, the term authority is often used interchangeably with power. Yet, their meanings diverge: while power is ‘the ability to influence somebody to do something that he or she would not have done’, authority refers to a claim of legitimacy, the justification and right to put into effect that power.

No other comic book character has a more ideal summation of the ethical code of power than Spider-Man’s celebrated, ‘With great power, comes great responsibility.’ While similar quotes from famed figures like Theodore Roosevelt and Winston Churchill can be identified, no one appears to have put it quite that way until Stan Lee thought it up for Spider-Man’s inaugural appearance in 1962.

In the story, this excerpt has always been attributed to Uncle Ben, the man who died precisely because Peter Parker didn’t make use of the powers he had been endowed with and allowed a crime to be committed in front of his eyes when he could have easily prevented it.

For a political leader to control what happens, and for him to make an impact on people and groups, he needs power. Navin Ramgoolam has often been observed to put forward actions where he attempts to ascertain, preserve, reinstate or amplify his power in the political arena. Be it his endeavour to impress or gain fame from his highly publicised visits to world leaders like Barack Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy and Narendra Modi, or his profound concern with his reputation and position are apparent efforts where he scores on the quest for power.

On the same level, NR’s hold over socio-cultural and religious groups commanded admiration indeed. He imbibed and practiced the actual foundation of political science theory by having a proper grip on political behaviours and political institutions in order to obtain desirable and projected political outcomes. When his need for power was high, NR was seen to work progressively to stage-manage and direct the whole political setting so as to have authority and come across as a definite winner. NR is proficient at evaluating situations and sensing what ploys will lead to the accomplishment of his goals. Indeed, he is subtly Machiavellian, hardly ever allowing the curtains to be drawn and working behind the scenes, strategizing to spread his eminence and let it prevail over all. That’s why he was generally considered as being not only a persuasive hero in Mauritius, but also a very daring one.

There is a scene which is still vivid in my mind and which has left me dumbfounded since the time I saw it years back. After NR’s victory in the 2010 general elections, I was watching the news coverage of the event where he was being congratulated by people; from this gathering of people, two old ladies – who could have been as old as NR’s mother had she still been alive – came to touch NR’s feet to take his blessings and to convey to him their affection. That power game would have marked me forever.

Even if it’s always tempting to judge things as good or bad and to qualify them as being either white or black, politics never makes the choice easy as shades of grey interplay within this arena. A leader in need of power has not much regard for those around him or for people in general. As a matter of fact, other people and institutions are merely instruments and channels for the leader’s ends; cheating and sham are perceived to be but natural within the game of politics. The dharma of a political leader cannot be moral perfection.

According to the modern political theory, politics is not concerned with making men moral nor is it seen as an extension of theories of the good for man. Instead, a conception of politics is seen as the exercise of power to manage and contain conflict or disagreement. Politics is a showground of force.

A principled and conscientious political leader needs to be cautious and adhere to the middle path. The duty of a statesman is to put down his enemies before they become dangerous, and to win at any cost. His duty in the end is to prevail and prevail only.


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