Home Editorials Correcting Perception

Correcting Perception


The numerous recruitment scams that have been exposed in Uttarakhand have come as a major perception challenge for the BJP Government in Uttarakhand. Considering the fact that it is in power for the second successive term in the state, there is no evading responsibility. Even if, as claimed, there is no direct involvement of ministers and other senior party officials, just the incompetence that allowed such rackets and practices to flourish raises serious questions. Fortunately for the party, these exposes have taken place at the beginning of its new term in office, so there is enough time for damage control.

In the meanwhile, however, this has provided an excellent opportunity for opposition parties like the Congress and AAP to target the ruling BJP in poll-bound states like Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. Combating the image-damage will require a three-fold strategy – exemplary action against wrong-doers, holding to account the political functionaries responsible without fear or favour and, of course, finding chinks in the opposition’s armour on similar counts. While the last can be left to the national leadership, it is Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami’s responsibility to restore the party’s image as a relatively honest outfit working in the interests of the public.

It is time for all political parties to realise that times have changed; one can no longer expect that a scandal will soon be forgotten, or not become known to a wider audience. Modern communication technology has made it almost impossible to cover up wrong-doing, unless one is a totalitarian society like that in China. It is also not enough that matters should be technically kosher under the law and past precedent; a government needs also to be perceived to be honest by the general public. This requires that some wrong-doers have to be identified at the highest levels and sacrificed on the altar of public opinion. This is not the time for Chief Minister Dhami to consider how politically important an individual is – there are always suitable replacements – but, if a perception takes root that the government is incompetent, weak or corrupt, it will be very difficult to erase. So, a couple of heads must symbolically roll to assuage public opinion. The price for anything less will, ultimately, be hard to pay.