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Hari Jaisingh
Hari Jaisingh
Opinion

Looking beyond PM Modi’s ANI interview

Hari Jaisingh

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 95-minute interview with Smitha Prakash of ANI on the New Year in New Delhi was quite comprehensive and wide-ranging. The ANI Editor-in-chief’s questions were pointed and pithy while keeping up sensitivities and intricacies of the VVIP at the other end.

She knows Narendra Modi does not meet the media at a full-fledged press conference for a free-for-all question-answer session. I wish PM Modi could do that. This would have helped him to understand national and global ground realities. But that was not to be. On his part, he has perfected the art of governing the media through the route of India’s media mughals. This suits him politically, but in the process he misses the power and flavour of free media in a vibrant democracy like India.

Well, the loss is of the Prime Minister. But then who cares in the BJP regime where free voices are at a discount even among his ministerial colleagues. This is PM Modi’s strength as well as weakness.

In the circumstances, Smitha Prakash has done a good job and deserves all compliments for maintaining sobriety and professional norms while dealing with the BJP supremo, who has to be handled with care and caution.

True, she enjoys confidence of the Prime Minister who, as already stated, keeps the media at bay and mainly relies on public rallies to attack his opponents and holds out promises to the people for a better tomorrow. Now, nearing the end of his five-year term, it would be worthwhile to assess objectively PM Modi’s plus and minus points of governance at the helm of national affairs. The problem with him is that right from the beginning, he has cast himself in the mould of a larger-than-life image as “no
Opposition leader”, including Congress president Rahul Gandhi, is a match for his public stature and the art of rhetoric. Such an image has its own advantage and disadvantage – the disadvantage since elements of arrogance, wittingly or unwittingly, creep in such a character which generally erode the leader’s standing in public perception.

And this is what has happened, though the BJP’s supporters may not admit it. Frankly speaking, super shining Narendra Modi of May 2014 today is an eroded version of his former self. The reason for his fall in the popularity graph is simple. The PM still has miles to go before the promises he held out at public rallies could be fulfilled. That is why in his heart of hearts, he is desperately trying for a second term. It is for the people to decide on the subject. As a journalist, I keep my fingers crossed while keeping my ears to the ground. As of now, I cannot be sure of his journey ahead, though he has now 10 per cent reservation quota for “Poor upper classes”. I doubt whether he has worked out the economics of creating new jobs. As it is, joblessness is PM Modi’s major problem for the May 2019
elections.

The biggest handicap of PM Modi is his inability to take even his varied party colleagues and allies along with him despite his impressive campaign of "Sabka vikaas, sab ka saath". The only “saath” he depends on is from his “friend” from Gujarat Amit Sah, the president of the BJP. In the absence of wider network, such an approach becomes counter-productive, sooner or later.

I had tremendous faith in Narendra Modi when he bowed his head at the foothold on Parliament House and talked passionately about Change India. Honestly speaking, I hardly see any substantive change in the way the Indian system has been run arbitrarily as a one-man show. This is neither a healthy sign for the BJP’s growth nor for Indian democracy.

Another problem with PM Modi is his one-track mind which does not entertain voices of criticism and dissent. What is democracy without dissenting voices? Indian democracy is not a paper boat to be played on the waves of a bath tub as children do. PM Modi needs to understand the complexities of India as well as its vibrant characteristics.

Take, for instance, his “great reformist measure called Demonetisation”. PM Modi still feels, as he reiterated in his interview: “It was necessary for the economic health of India.” May I ask him: Did he ever realise that 90 per cent of the rural economy is run on cash? No wonder, DeMo only added to the woes of farmers whose crisis is likely to be a major issue for the 2019 poll.

This is not a question of “a train changing tracks and slowing down a bit”. I consider it to be “a disastrous move”, and not “a jhatka” in the name of unearthing black money!”

PM Modi surely sounded sincere and honest while replaying to a number of questions relating to Ram Mandir. He virtually rejected the RSS’s political route of issuing on ordinance on Ram temple before the judicial process plays out. This needs to be applauded. Modi has made it clear that the court will not be pre- empted. Fine. Modi deserves thanks on this count. I am not analyzing his interview at length as it has been widely published. I wish to assess the Modi regime of over four and a half years on the touchstone of our ancient concept of how “a king” is supposed to conduct himself.

In today’s trying times, I expect the ruling establishment to think of “Vikramaditya throne”. Those at the helm of affairs have to conduct themselves by the example of the legendary king who ruled and acted honestly, truthfully, wisely and justly.

The “nakedness” of most rulers, whether self-inflicted or induced, cannot be a matter of controversy. It is foolhardy to hide the truth, howsoever unpleasant.

Everything depends on how closely the executive and judiciary follow the Vikramaditya creed of justice and fair play with regard to all sections of society, whether Hindus, Muslims or Dalits. More than anything else, I would like the persons occupying key positions in public life to be guided by the “lamp” within and refrain from inflicting injustice on others.

What is necessary for this is enlightened vigilance for public good? In this context, it is worthwhile recalling the following words of wisdom: “Where the subjects are watchful a prince is entirely dependent on them for his status. Where the subjects are overtaken by sleepy indifference, there is every possibility that the prince will cease to function as a protector and become an oppressor instead. Those who are not wide awake have no right to blame the prince.”

In the Modi regime, the problem is not of blame game but a selective approach in seeing men, matters and issues in terms of communities, caste, creed and religion, the Sangh Parivar style. PM Modi has been somewhat indifferent to such goings-on. The net result remains to be watched in 2019.

What will probably matter finally is the people’s common sense. It is a different matter that common sense is not so common these days!