The politician I admire the most is Lee Kuan Yew. Why? Because he is intelligent, learned, wise and gets things done. He is authoritarian — but without authority, you cannot get things done. All great leaders are authoritarian since they have to lead. The problem is not authority; the problem is authoritarian leaders who are stupid. Countries end up in the bottom of heap because of stupid authoritarian leaders. Two notable authoritarian leaders in India’s history are Nehru and MK Gandhi. How wise they were is clear from the evidence: India is a desperately poor country. China too had its fair share of stupid authoritarian leaders. And like India, it was awfully poor. But its fortunes changed. How? Because of one man.
Among all people that Lee Kuan Yew has ever met, the man he admires the most is Deng Xiaoping, as he claimed in his chat with Charlie Rose in October 2009. Watch.
There’s only one Lee Kuan Yew. Singapore was lucky to get the original. China was lucky that it got Deng Xiaoping who learned from Lee Kuan Yew. The hundreds of millions of Indians, especially the poor, need a Lee Kuan Yew. Since India cannot have the original, a copy would do. But they broke the mold after making him. So how about a Deng Xiaoping, a man who is wise enough to learn from Lee Kuan Yew? India’s tragedy is that its leaders have proved to be incapable of thinking through problems and learning the solutions from others. Hubris and stupidity are the most potent toxic components of leadership incompetency.