Great oratory does not necessarily mean great drawing room dialogues or discussions too. And they certainly don’t certify your credentials as a willing engager.
The recent interview by PM to ANI has stirred a hornets’ nest. It is no brainer though that he chose the time, date & the agency of his liking, given his utter dislike & perennial hate for the umpteen mikes clamouring for the spicier, meatier yet controversial sound bytes ever. Not that, he has obliged them either & may not do so in near future too. Grapevine & insider stuff has it that, despite loving his own voice and having a penchant for monologues, Modi the orator loathes questions being asked of him or he being confronted on issues or actions in an open ended, more freer expression, so typical of an unstructured interaction or an interview. It is something, that people suspect, evokes a weird sense of rancour & anger in him; For the man can do no wrong, has all the solutions under his armpits & that he need not explain to the public in the manner you & I think he should be doing. At least he thinks so & so is he entitled to his thinking that way.
Back to the interview & it is fascinating how we get to see a predictable sense, stuff & style each time he is on air. Recounting almost a million times, his ideas, his achievements, his tirade against dynasty, effervescent eloquence, about how much this country has moved ahead in his tenure & how much he has done despite the hardships & his humble background, we have gotten so used to now. The congress was quick to denounce such stuff as a staged theatre & dubbing the prime minister’s interview as “I, Me, Mine, Myself”. The party also listed 10 questions for the prime minister, seeking answers on promises on jobs and black money and policies such as demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax. Not at all, surprising coming as these do from the main opposition party;
More critical was the incisive tweeting by BJP insider nemesis in Shatrughan Sinha. Calling this interview a “well-scripted, choreographed, well-researched and rehearsed” one , he was more than poking fun at his leader, albeit in a more sophisticated manner, The powerful Bihari leader has dared his PM to hold a press conference just like his predecessors have done in the past and take “candid extempore” questions instead. He was echoing the opposition criticism over the prime minister not calling a single press conference in the last four and half years going further to say that “In the past all Prime Ministers have had Press conferences but Sir, you haven’t had even one in your tenure of 4.5 years. Why Sir? Let’s have genuine journalists without the ‘Sarkari’ (government) mindset and not your regular ‘Raag Darbari‘ (King’s court) clan.
Not meeting the press may be an individual’s ‘prerogative. But is it so really? Wouldn’t it be a genuine yearning by people to hear their PM say what he has to in an open forum? Take questions, regardless of their color, spin & sub-text. After all the Proof of the pudding lies in it’s eating. While it is possible that during the course of such an interaction, there could be awkward moments, uncomfortable questions or an occasional gaffe, so what? But isn’t that the beauty of a presser. Quite unlike your own assumptive conjectures, self proclaimed victories & self attested righteous approach, bordering on arrogance, there can’t be a better platform for a perceivably popular leader to either expose his enemies of development or revel in his achievements. Why not make it a custom to address the common man through mass media & national television & hence unceasingly register your claim to whatever you have wanted to appropriate to brand Modi. The best way to answer criticism is to take the bull by the horns. How did this nation get the term “MaunMohan” in the first place; do we see a Déjà vu of sorts? After all what is good for the geese should be good for the gander too.
On the flip side, there can be an extreme outcome that could be filtered from such isolated instances of voice tests. Some would say that this is a late realisation by BJP think tank & Mr. Modi of something amiss in the air. They must be worried of late, having suffered some unimagined reverses in recent elections & the incessant tirade by the congress against BJP’s tallest leader of this time. Thus we see a sort of inadvertent surrender of the invincibility tag off their shoulders & the sleeves. More so when the PM says that the battle for 2019 is between the people & the Mahaghatbandhan, clearly he is imploring his core constituents & for a moment he has more than amplified the power of the electorate, using his style & candour to articulate this stark truth.
It is no surprise that the Congress has again spearheaded the charge by calling this interview a “monologue” on its twitter handle as also many other users pointing out how the PM made the conversation about himself. You may recall that Mr. Modi had spoken on a range of topics, from farm loan waivers and surgical strikes to the opposition alliance for the national elections and the Ram temple matter. Notwithstanding his oft-repeated farm sops comment as no more than “lollipop” by the erstwhile congress regimes, he had certainty ruffled many a feather in his Sangh Parivar with his comment on Ram temple. By insisting on a Court ruling & detesting an ordinance, he has perhaps dropped the biggest bombshell in recent times in his own backyard. And when he says that one surgical strike will not “change” Pakistan, one would only hope that such a statement is not another attempt at infusing some life & extracting something out of the since dead & dusted deed.
When reality dawns on the conscious soul, truth, more than anything else seems to flow out uninhibitedly from the contrived minds & impulsive busts. It may have made more sense & created a better scene, had the PM chosen a wider media to count his chicken & allow the larger audiences a peek into his government’s performances; The Highs & the lows; Err…tongue in cheek. And when a very loyal defence minister tries an encore of sorts by dishing out a lengthy concoction of facts, figures & fiction, we may well have got the answers to most of our questions & an understanding of the clamour for cover at play on multiple fronts.