Every five years, Indians celebrate being the largest democracy in the world by exercising their constitutional right to vote. They do this by deciding which leader they think is the most trustworthy. This need to be able to trust our political candidates has remained constant, even though the political scene in India has evolved considerably through the years.

So how exactly do leaders build trust with the people who have the power to vote them in or out of power? One of the most effective ways is by improving their content expertise and presence. Content expertise simply refers to the breadth of a candidate’s knowledge on a subject, along with their political experience and general competence. This is a way to establish their credibility with the voters.

Meanwhile, presence is based on the candidate’s personality—how much respect they command, how authoritative they appear, and how well they connect with people on the ground. This is linked more with openness and their willingness to share a part of who they are with the people they will eventually work for.

Usually, one or both of these factors come into play when people decide to vote for a particular candidate. Voters assess a potential leader’s trustworthiness in terms of how much impact they’ve managed to create in their constituency, and if they’ve followed up on their promises.  Voters will also look at presence: can the candidate convince the voter why and how they would be the right person for the constituency? Do they sound like someone who could take charge and deliver? Can they be relied upon to deliver on promises?

An important caveat here: in reality, credibility and reliability rarely plays a deciding role in establishing complete trust in a leader’s ability. Voters also look for a very specific trait: how is the potential leader connecting with them and their ideas? 

The air in the country is charged with anticipation right now. It is time to once again see what helps leaders win: credibility, reliability or openness. Irrespective of which way the results go, one can assume that the victorious will stand as the symbols of trust for those who have voted them into power.

Suha Gangopadhyay is a graduate from Oxford and worked at the Ashoka University. A curriculum editor at Harappa Education, she has traveled to every continent on this planet—well, almost. 

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