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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 28 New Delhi July 2, 2016

What Narendra Modi’s Interview Conveys

Friday 1 July 2016, by SC


Narendra Modi can justifiably claim to be one of the most articulate Indian PMs in recent times. Not just India but also the world at large has been witness to his oratorical skills since he has used his term in power to undertake major foreign visits, especially to the US. Yet he has been highly reticent to address press conferences in India, unlike his predecessors in the PM’s seat, notably Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi.

So it was a pleasant surprise to find him giving a detailed interview to a TV journalist who has been quite close to the BJP line of thinking in general and Narendra Modi in particular. Modi used the oppor-tunity to give an unqualified certificate of ’patriotism’ to the Reserve Bank of India Governor, Raghuram Rajan, while openly snubbing his own party colleague, Dr Subramanian Swamy, who ran a veritable campaign against Rajan and other leading officials in the Finance Ministry. But beyond that he did not go as far as to issue any note of warning to the likes of Dr Swamy.

The interviewer, however, was thrilled. “This is a very clear message,“ he blurted out quite contrary to what a seasoned interviewer would ever do (thus giving irrefutable proof of the fact that such journalists do not function as watchdogs that newspersons are supposed to be but as lapdogs of those in power). And Modi fully grabbed this opening to add: “I have a very clear message. I have no two minds about it.”

Modi also asked the media not to make “heroes” out of those in his party or the Sangh Parivar acting as rabble-rousers by making divisive comments. But he himself did not pull up those elements. This led The Times of India to tell the PM: “... it’s media’s responsibility to report misdeed; his is to check it.” The fact is that Narendra Modi has once again revealed the doublespeak of the BJP dispensation over which he is presiding—he as the PM will speak on development and his government’s pro-poor policies and steps, while others, including the BJP President, will go on making divisive comments thereby vitiating the social atmosphere.

Such an approach hardly inspires any confidence in the PM. It also offers a measure of the distance between Modi and his party leader running the PMO, A.B. Vajpayee.

Meanwhile the PM’s ministerial colleague, M. Venkaiah Naidu, has, in a write-up in The Indian Express today,  claimed that the decisive mandate to the Modi-led NDA in 2014 had “busted” the “myth of communalism”. It is for the citizens of this country who are at the receiving end—like the Muslims in Muzaffarnagar and members of Mohammad Akhlaq’s family at Dadri—to tell him on his face that communalism under Modi-rule is not a myth but the grim reality.

June 29 S.C.