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Lok Sabha Elections 2014: Will a beard or a stubble help a candidate become PM?

Thursday, 3 April 2014 - 8:30am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: DNA

Clean-shaven, stubble or full-on beard, what should it be? Well, stubble or clean shaven, if you're single and looking, or want a job. Beard, if you're married or not looking or don't have a job!

Narendra Modi has a beard; he insists he's single but is "not looking", and wants a change of job. Rahul Gandhi is also "single", and maybe "looking"; he also wants a change of job. In short both the gentlemen want to become PM. Will a beard or a stubble help?

Modi has this perpetual beard. Rahul breaks into stubble and beard, on and off. In between, when the going gets tough, the Gandhi-scion shears off the beard to get that clean look of the boy next door. When the going gets tougher, he gets hirsute to bring an amount of aggression to his drive.

The BJP's prime ministerial candidate and his beard go chin and chin. The silvery-white cheeky growth is perfectly groomed. Without doubt, it gets its daily trim. Who gives it to him is anybody's guess. Can't be Modi on his own, scissors in hand.

Modi's admirers in the party stand by Modi's beard. "Modi is a style-icon and whatever he says or does becomes a style-statement. It's been like that since he was RSS pracharak," says Samhit Parta, spokesperson, Delhi BJP, and the party's occasional talking head on shrill but vacuous political soap operas on TV. "And please don't ask me about Rahul's stubble."

But then, Rahul Gandhi has already told the world, he would be the last person to fall to the razor. "Opposition parties... They are the ones who will sell combs to the bald. Now, some new people have come.

The earlier ones used to sell combs to the bald, the new ones are giving haircuts. They are giving a haircut to the bald. Do not fall prey to what they say," Rahul said recently.

Rahul's stubble/beard/clean-shaven looks come and go as unwanted guests, one replacing the other in no orderly fashion. One day, it's dimples on the cheeks. Another day, a light coat of stubble. Then, day-after-day, hirsute from ear to ear. They all make a statement, says a Congress leader, "like he doesn't have the time to shave; he's so very worried how Modi's politics will polarise India, and how much he cares for the people."

The opposition is not impressed. In fact, to the BJP, Rahul's beard or stubble is nothing to take the razor to. BJP leaders say Rahul grows a beard now and then to appear aggressive, and masculine. Then he feels the futility of it and is back to clean-shaven.

A 2003 study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, British psychologists of Northumbria University found that men with full beards scored highest for perceptions of aggressiveness as well as masculinity. The same study found that women went for "light stubble". But even if beards convey aggression, confidence and wisdom, it need not necessarily get them the women, or the votes, say other psychologists.

The after-shave that lingers: For 12 years the Congress wanted to beard Modi in his den. Every time it failed. During those 12 years, Modi's beard transformed from pepper and salt to silvery-white, with every single strand of his beard today mocking the Congress.




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