Wannabe PMs’ Debate: First, can we debate Track Record vs. Tape Record?

I find it absolutely funny that there’s a petition calling for Narendra Modi, Arvind Kejriwal, and Rahul Gandhi to “debate” on their national agenda. And, nothing surprising here, LordAK has signed this petition!

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Of the three, there’s only one leader with a solid track record of serving the country for 12+ years. The second one has tape record, and a track record of running away from responsibility and hard work. The third one lacks even that tape record.

First of all, how can the petitioner select only these three when there are scores of more accomplished political leaders such as Ms. Jayalalithaa or Ms. Mamata Banerjee or Mr. Naveen Patnaik or Mr. Shivraj Chauhan or Mr. Nitish Kumar who have track record? These leaders might probably have better chances of becoming PMs than LordAK.

Modi is a declared PM candidate of NDA, Rahul is the undeclared one of UPA, and LordAK is the media-declared one. Naturally, the media wants to promote him to be in the same league as serious PM contenders. His Made-for-TV statements during debate will also add spice to their primetime TRP ratings.

I have nothing against TV debate among PM contenders per se, but a debate, to be credible, should be among serious contenders for power. Otherwise, the one who has no chance/intention of becoming PM has least stake in the debate, and can throw in irresponsible statements such as:

  • “I will solve world hunger” or
  • “All my opponents are in Ambani’s pockets” or
  • “I am the only honest person in India” or
  • “There’s not an atom of development in Gujarat.”

That person has nothing to lose, and everything to gain by making bombastic, self-righteous statements. This is by design. A serious contender for power has everything to lose by trying to engage with a Made-for-TV personality.

Therefore, I do agree with Arun Jaitley’s wise advice to Modi not to engage with mavericks who have little stake in the system: Nothing to lose, everything to gain by making wild allegations when a camera hits your face.

Elections are also a great occasion for the mavericks. A maverick per se is independent in thought and action. He is not bound by the conventional rules. He is out of the ordinary. He shrills and at times is outlandish. He knows every trick on how to focus attention on himself. He attracts attention and publicity. He has no qualms about switching positions. He is more colorful on electronic media than conventional politicians. Social media particularly the Twitter has a huge space for accommodating the maverick opinions. Many mavericks are committed to ‘rent a cause’ philosophy. They are on the lookout for causes which they can espouse.

… Their style is unconventional. They make arguments in an idiom intended to derive maximum publicity. A maverick has a habit of making allegations without substance. Conventional politicians are reluctant to join issue with them because a maverick is capable of hitting below the belt. He is a wild card.

I have always wondered how to deal with a maverick. Do you answer questions which a maverick puts to you? Do you meet him when he tries to gate crash into your house? Do you allow him to occupy the centre stage by engaging him or do you ignore him and continue with your conventional style of setting the agenda? That I feel is a safer option. Silence can be the best response to a maverick. Silence is dignified. It saves you the embarrassment of engaging with a maverick on his bizarre agenda.

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