The Delhi Lessons

Added 01 September 2015

The Delhi Lessons

Everybody is stunned by the massive victory that AAP has had in Delhi. This kind of a sweeping majority is not possible, unless every citizen who voted, irrespective of caste, age, social background, education, income group or religion, voted for the winning party (AAP). This can happen only if all of them, however different otherwise, were driven to alignment by a coherent set of issues. The press and TV reports analysing the results seem to indicate that this single reason could be BJP’s arrogance, anti-corruption, or AAP’s apology for their past behaviour.

Being a magnet for job seekers at all levels, our cities simply have grown, and continue to grow haphazardly. People in cities like to believe that they are just honest, trying-to-make-my-living kind of citizens. In elections elsewhere, even today, it is easy to divide people by caste or religion or language. Have them vote en-bloc, by creating ‘voter banks’.

The sheer complexity of living anywhere in the top 10 cities of India will ensure that the usual kind of dividing voters into any of the old categories simply doesn’t work in the urban areas. In fact, all news reports point to the fact that the voters in Delhi were more concerned about water and electricity and the ‘VIP culture’ and, things that don’t let you live peacefully on a day to day basis.

When you live in a large and complex sprawl called New Delhi, getting through and surviving each day in the City is the single-most overwhelming challenge. Any party that seems to talk more about these issues will naturally get a ready audience, and then the votes.

This is the loud and unmistakable lesson from the AAP victory in Delhi. We need governments dedicated to managing our large cities. There is no country in the world (including China) where the urban conglomerates have simply sprouted as fast as they have, as in India. We cannot look for precedence for this elsewhere in the world and apply that experience here. The problems of our metro cities are unique, and are completely different from the problems in the rest of the state in which the metro is located. Travel outward just 30 kilometres from any of our cities, and the issues and challenges are different.

Delhi, being a city-state, has made this point unequivocally. The problems in rest of Maharashtra are completely different from those of Mumbai city as the problems in rest of Karnataka are from those of Bangalore City. We have to come out with a system by which the urban denizen of these metros can have a say in forming a government that can work 24/7 to take care of our survival issues, without being distracted by other complex problems of the larger state in which the city happens to be located.

Alfred P Chandler, in his book Strategy and Structure, instructs that if the strategy of a Business Unit(BU) is different from that of the rest of the company, the structure for that BU should be different. We also learn from Chandler that when Strategy and Structure are in congruence, the structure by itself will make the strategy for that BU/Division apparent. In effect, the structure that is in place to manage an entity should mirror the strategy that is behind the existence of that entity. If there be a mismatch between the Strategy and the Structure, all revenues and profits from this Business Unit will be in jeopardy.

Let us ask ourselves: Do the governing structures in our cities really reflect the individual aspirations of the inhabitants? Our cities are the predominant sources of the nation’s taxes (revenues), and they generate almost all the employment opportunities (profits). Delhi has spoken, and shown all other cities a way forward. When and how are we going to make each of our top 25 cities into profitable Business Units? 

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