Friday, January 28, 2011

Villgro Blog: Simply Fly Chapter 4

In this chapter, Gopinath dabbles in politics by running for the position of MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly). This development is in some ways consistent with what the reader learns of Gopinath in previous chapters.

Firstly, in Chapter 3, Gopinath mentions that he is becoming increasingly well-known, both because of his silkworm and other businesses, and because he wins the Rolex Award for Enterprise. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) asks him to be the president of the party in Hassan.

Secondly, in my post on Chapter 3 I mentioned an incident when Gopinath offers help even to those who ransack his farm. In this incident, Gopinath displays an ability to stand up to people when he looks the marauders in the eye, raising his voice but nevertheless reasoning with them. In this chapter Gopinath both argues with Vajpayee at a dinner attended by leaders of the state BJP, and with Deve Gowda, a powerful politician. In the latter incident, Deve Gowda violates the election code of conduct by arriving to speak around 20 minutes early, with a procession and drums. Gopinath, incensed at Deve Gowda cutting into his time, refuses to call off or even temporarily stop his meeting. Gopinath eventually prevails.

As early as Chapter 2, Gopinath also displays his skill in fundraising. He starts farming on 30 acres of land, 20 of which belong to his uncles. He tells his uncles that he will pay them a much higher amount than they would get by selling the land, and higher interest than that offered by the banks, but from the sale of his crop (in the future). In this chapter, Gopinath faces a much larger fundraising challenge when he has to organize a rally for the visiting BJP leader, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He realizes that if he organizes the rally using his own funds he will become bankrupt, and decides instead to publicize the function through local artists, traders and contractors. Yet the reader can question the ethicality of this decision, as it is likely that many of the traders and contractors invested in Gopinath in the hope that if he came to power, he would “reward” them later with development contracts.

Gopinath says that he did not have time at that moment to consider the ethicality of his decision. However, another ethical decision that he struggles with in this chapter and resolves somewhat more satisfactorily, is over whether to represent a party with communal overtones. Gopinath joins the BJP only when he is assured by the party that they are a separate and independent identity from the communal RSS, and that there will be no interference in his functioning.

Gopinath’s strong sense of equality, instilled in him both by his father and his experience in the army, is evident in this chapter not only in his statement that, “…there is only one caste, one community, and one religion: of being an Indian,” but also in his decision to contest from the agrarian constituency of Gadsi, rather than from the cities of Bengaluru or Hassan where he would win votes on the basis of his caste. There is also an incident where party workers and leaders gather on his farm, and refuse to eat the food cooked by Raju because he belongs to the scheduled castes. Gopinath asks Raju to serve him first, and everyone else follows.

Nevertheless, at this point in the book, it is difficult to discern a clear progression in the opportunities that Gopinath chooses to pursue. Although he loses the election, it seems just as feasible that had he won, he would have become a politician as the founder of Air Deccan. This led me to think about entrepreneurship education, and the theories behind it. One theory could be that some people are “born entrepreneurs”, and that entrepreneurship education will uncover these “hidden” entrepreneurs. Another theory could be that entrepreneurship education exists to educate everyone on entrepreneurship as a possible career option. For people like Gopinath, who seem to be interested in several career paths, entrepreneurship education could steer them in the direction, or at least make them aware, of entrepreneurship as one amongst these options.

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