why we need capable leaders, not good orators

ever thought why democracies fail to turn political rhetoric into reality? why phenomenally good speakers who command wide public support hardly deliver even a fraction of what they promise? this is because the ‘by the people’ aspect of democracy gives birth to leaders who possess good oratory skills but lack the requisite competence to govern with efficiency and integrity.

india is being self-ruled by representatives chosen by the public since more than seven decades. this is a long time, long enough to eradicate the curses of income inequality, extreme poverty and limited access to education and healthcare. public sector institutions are still riddled with corruption and bureaucracy at all levels lacks both skills and intent to perform their duties in the desired manner.

it can be said that the electorate is yet to identify competent leaders out of a market that is inundated with politicians subscribing to different ideologies. voters tend to back politicians who have the best oratory skills. these politicians are great marketers, for they can strongly influence public opinion by way of delivering great speeches and addresses. they know what it takes to make listeners happy and ecstatic – it can be an empty promise of ‘complete eradication of poverty’ or of ‘paving way for good days for all’.

but governance is no product. governance cannot and should not be marketed. hoardings, banners, public addresses and all other marketing material used by political parties have now breached the legitimate limit of morality and sincerity. today, politicians are only selling dreams to buyers who get easily swayed by false promises- similar to advertisements promising fair skin.

politics, governance and leadership are unlike the marketing discipline. marketing simply means selling for profit, hence a good public speaker is perfect for the job since s/he can convince more and more people to buy the product, irrespective of product’s efficacy. by contrast, good governance relies on good intent and competence. it is a myth that a good orator is a good leader. no. a person with realistic vision and a well-defined strategy to implement that vision is a far better leader than someone with just good oratory skills.

indians have experimented with several political parties and ideologies to run the country. but in most cases, it was a politician who could market and sell tall promises effortlessly through public speeches that won wide support. in the upcoming elections, the electorate must shed the old codes and elect competent leaders who can reimagine and reform public sector institutions rather than claiming income equality and job opportunities only in conversations.

lastly, we are also to remember that good orators are, more often than not, bad leaders, for they place all their energies and skills in preparing and delivering empty promises.

the ‘underdog theory’ for 2019 lok sabha elections

the election of donald trump as the president of the united states in 2017 was an unexpected outcome of a contest that experts believed was totally tilted toward hillary clinton. allegations ranging from vested business interests to inappropriate conduct with women in the past couldn’t stop the americans to vote for the ‘underdog’, who was simply and brutally written off by political analysts and mainstream media.

this is what electoral politics is all about. in 2014 general elections, no one predicted such landslide victory of the modi-led bjp party, it still happened. for the upcoming 2019 lok sabha polls, experts can only predict either a majority for the national democratic alliance (nda) or a fractured mandate with no clear majority to any party. indeed, the indian national congress, in view of most political analysts, stands no chance to come up with maximum number of seats in the parliament.

of course, the bjp has delivered on some aspects. free lpg connections to poor households and mudra loans are a few schemes that have made a difference. but all the rhetoric by the bjp campaign in the run up to the 2014 elections didn’t eventually turn reality. we are still appeasing china; pakistan hasn’t been reined in; the kashmir issue has worsened; rupee has fallen to its lowest level; petrol prices too peaked; and jobs aren’t meeting the demand.

but the issue that can take all the sheen away from the modi-led government is the remorseless oppression of religious minorities and lower-caste hindus. add to this the failure of modi in cleansing indian political landscape that even today is riddled with corruption at all levels (bjp has welcomed goons and corrupts in the party only to seek votes). corruption and lackadaisical attitude of employees in public sector, be it bureaucrats or government bank officials, too has stayed as it is.

and then comes rahul gandhi who has in his fierce trust-vote discussion speech gave the electoral what it needed, a perfect reason to empathise. he accepted the so-called ‘pappu’ name given to him by none other than behind-the-scene bjp cadre (that comes up with various short videos mocking rahul gandhi) and went ahead to hug the prime minister, who did not stand up from his seat (a mark that will be seen as arrogance).

and let’s not forget that the indian electorate loves underdogs- election of pm modi is a perfect example. the underdog of today is rahul gandhi, a man whose speech of ‘love and anti-hate’ can resonate well with voters, especially the ones for whom mob-violence is a concern, not a chest-thumping event. in fact, rahul gandhi has scripted a re-birth of sorts for the ailing congress, and if he can carry the tag of an ‘underdog’ till the voting day, the picture can surprisingly alter.