Does a chief minister’s image help the state’s development? Whether it does or not, more and more state chief ministers are focusing on image building in the national capital. Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy, otherwise low profile and a little shy at least outside Kerala, is the latest who joined the bandwagon of chief ministers, who indulge in this exercise. During his last visit to New Delhi, in which he was accompanied by most of his senior cabinet colleagues, had an unprecedented rendezvous with senior journalists and editors. Apart from hosting a delicious Kerala lunch, Chandy, distributed his biography ”A gracious voice” written by his press secretary P.T. Chacko and C.C. Thomas, among the national press in Delhi.
Chandy’s attempts came in the midst of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s three-day fast for ”peace and unity” that hogged the headlines for almost a week. Journalists in Delhi received several telephone calls and e-mails from a public relation firm ahead of Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s nine-day visit last month to China on the invitation of the World Economic Forum.
Kerala CM Oommen Chandy
Interestingly, the public relation exercises by the chief ministers seem aimed at promoting their personal image but not of the states’ nor that of the parties they belong to. Tamil Nadu chief minister J.Jayalalitha and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar are also cautiously making attempts to build up their image at the national level during their visits. However, both these leaders and Modi nurse prime ministerial ambitions, unlike Chandy who has no such intentions. In contrast, the politics, policies and the governance of these leaders in their states emphasize regionalism. They try to evoke the regional sentiments to win hearts back home.
The corrupt image of a chief minister seems to be adversely affecting the state’s prospects -- the allegations and the political drama behind former Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa’s resignation after he was indicted in the Lokayukta report in the illegal mining scam has tarnished Karnataka’s sheen as an investor friendly and pro-development government. These exercises will of course earn them goodwill because; most of these chief ministers have a clean image. But whether it helps the state in its development and investment prospects is not clear. One is reminded of Daniel Boorstein’s candid observation in his half a century old classic, The Image: A Guide To Pseudo Events in America. ”The hero was distinguished by his achievements; the celebrity by his image or trademark. The hero created himself; the celebrity is created by the media. The hero was a big man; the celebrity is a big name. Formerly, a public man needed a private secretary for a barrier between himself and the public. Nowadays, he has a press secretary, to keep him properly in the public eye.”