Making Credibility Paradigm Work

Published: 18th January 2015 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 17th January 2015 10:45 PM   |  A+A-


Credibility is the camber of political success. Narendra Modi’s choice of candidates for public office is not determined by the traditional political calculus, but by promoting people who in real life or as symbolic figures appear credible. Hence, by choosing Kiran Bedi as the BJP candidate to oppose AAP’s charismatic but unpredictable Arvind Kejriwal, Modi was stating that leaders should be service providers and not self-providers.

The move has upset Delhi BJP’s senior leadership, which has been working for the party for decades, but Modi doesn’t care. He puts his faith in those who he feels can deliver governance, and not speeches. His support for Amit Shah as campaign commander paid off; the party swept the Lok Sabha elections in Uttar Pradesh, and the Haryana Assembly elections with him as the new party president. In Maharashtra, Shah defied the Shiv Sena and the BJP formed the government. The strategy of not backing down—a typical Modi characteristic—is being exhibited by Shah in Jammu and Kashmir, where he ensured that his party got a big bonus.

Most Modi’s nominees have experience in social work or administration, while others have recall value and are chosen for roles that define them in public perception. He chose Devendra Phadnavis as Maharashtra’s chief minister—a young and energetic local leader. He made General VK Singh a minister, whose credentials are that of a battle-hardened soldier who fought for India in many wars and battled with the UPA government. By choosing Smriti Irani as his HRD minister, Modi was banking on her popularity as Tulsi, who represented the ideal Indian family woman in the popular soap opera subconscious. Acting as Sita in TV serial Ramayan boosted her

Hindutva image. In Manohar Parikkar, the nation got a hawk, one who would not compromise on Pakistan or terrorism—a welcome change after the lackluster AK Antony who preferred snoozing to shooting. Ajit Doval, who has seen action on the ground as a master spy in Pakistan and Punjab, has revived the security establishment. In all these cases, Modi chose credibility over convention.

Bedi’s appointment may have created a perceptible change among Delhi’s residents disenchanted with rising prices and deteriorating law and order. The contrast between Kejriwal and Bedi is not that vivid. Both are Magsaysay Award winners. Both left their mentor Anna Hazare because of frustrated ambition. They are not raising questions about the Jan Lokpal Bill anymore. Modi even stole the broom from Kejriwal with his Swacch Bharat campaign, which featured India’s crème de la crème wielding the broom on the streets. If his detractors say only Modi matters in the BJP, then only Kejri matters in AAP. By quitting as chief minister, Kejri lost credibility as a decisive leader. Bedi, on the other hand, may be obsessively ambitious, but still possesses credibility. She was the first reformer of the notorious Tihar Jail, bringing in yoga and vipassana to change the criminal mindset, at least partially. She was nicknamed Crane Bedi after she towed away Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s car for a traffic violation.

2014 was a battle of credibility between a chief minister who had earned a reputation for development and a disconnected young dynast with a reputation for incomprehension. No leader or system can seize power without it. At the same time, without performance, credibility is just another word for nirvana.


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