1. Why PM Narendra Modi avoids the media

Why PM Narendra Modi avoids the media

In another two years, Narendra Modi may well enter the Guinness Book of Records for failing to hold a press conference.

By: | Published: June 10, 2017 12:38 PM
Narendra Modi, BJP minister, Narendra Modi avoids media, PM Narendra Modi , Guinness Book of Records, press conference Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Photo: Reuters)

In another two years, Narendra Modi may well enter the Guinness Book of Records for failing to hold a press conference. In that event, he will be the first Prime Minister of a democratic country who has avoided meeting the media at a large televised gathering. It is not that he hasn’t met newsmen at all. But these meetings have been with a select few who are known to be partial towards the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — the “North Korean TV”, as Arun Shourie, a former BJP minister, has said. Even then, the interactions weren’t live. Apart from these occasional, choreographed, generally one-sided pow wows, what Modi favours is a monologue — whether at public rallies or at indoor functions with an invited audience where no questions are allowed, or over the radio.

Why this reticence from an otherwise voluble Prime Minister when his far more reserved predecessor held at least two major press conferences in addition to having prolonged engagements with the journalists travelling with him on his foreign trips?

As is known, Modi’s aversion towards the fourth estate stems from the aftermath of the Gujarat riots when he apparently felt that he could not afford to be interrogated closely on what transpired. Once he even walked out of a one-to-one chat show when asked about the riots. One of his first steps after becoming the Prime Minister was to dispense with the convention of journalists accompanying the PM when he went abroad. Only the official media were given the privilege.

You may also like to watch:

There is also a belief in the saffron camp that the so-called mainstream media, especially the English ones, harbour the Left-Liberals who look upon the BJP with a jaundiced eye and have had a special antipathy towards Modi since the riots. Hence, the Prime Minister’s reluctance to reach out to them although the BJP does allow its spokespersons to present the party’s case before the television cameras, an unavoidable aspect of democratic functioning.

One explanation for Modi’s unwillingness to take part in an exercise which is routine in a democracy is that his answers to probing questions can reveal a worldview which is alien to the narrative which has guided the country’s politics till now. Nothing exposed this difference between the BJP’s perceptions and the rest of the country’s more starkly than Atal Behari Vajpayee’s 1996 decision to put on hold the three key issues on the Hindutva agenda — the Ram temple, Article 370 of the Constitution and uniform civil code — in order to woo the “secular” parties to his side.

Since Vajpayee’s time, more issues marking out the BJP’s distinctive position from that of the other parties have come to the fore. These are myth vs history, faith vs the inviolability of protected monuments, vegetarianism vs non-vegetarianism, astrology vs astronomy, Hindi vs English, and so on. The gulf between the two worldviews makes Modi something of an outsider in Lutyens Delhi. It also probably makes him wary of baring his soul to a large media gathering lest his answers create problems for the saffron brotherhood by sowing confusion among the BJP’s core supporters.

It may not be besides the point to note that another outsider — this time from the Washington beltway — Donald Trump is also highly critical of the mainstream media although he does not shy away from press conferences. If Modi does so, it is because he is still hovering between the two diametrically opposite worlds. While his government has vowed to crack down on gau rakshaks (cow vigilantes) and other militants, the latter have persisted with their acts of depredations because they apparently believe that these are in line with the saffron brotherhood’s outlook.

For the BJP, the moderate vs extremist dichotomy in its own ranks has been complicated by the fact that India’s diversity allows one or the other view to prevail in different parts of the country. Thus, while the death sentence is prescribed by the party’s Chhattisgarh Chief Minister for those who kill cows and the Gujarat Chief Minister vows to persuade everyone in his state to turn vegetarian, beef “festivals” are held in Kerala and Tamil Nadu and the BJP’s office-bearers in the north-eastern states stridently emphasise their preference for the forbidden meat.

It is obvious that the absence of a clear line makes it virtually impossible for the party to articulate a credible position on various issues. Since there are no differences either inside or outside the BJP on the Prime Minister’s developmental thrust — although the protectionist lobby in the saffron camp is opposed to the introduction of genetically modified foods — Modi will be at ease in accepting questions at a press conference on his Make in India, Digital India and other similar projects and even on demonetisation although it is now seen to have led to a slowing down of growth.

But it is the activities of what is known as the “fringe” which can be problematic. Moreover, these groups are unlikely to fade away because of the inspiration which they derive from the saffron brotherhood’s interpretation of history as a period of constant conflict between the native Hindus and the invading Muslims with their iconoclastic approach to faith and diet. It is the BJP’s present tightrope walk between moderation and extremism which makes Modi avoid large press meets.

  1. A
    A V Koshy
    Oct 28, 2017 at 10:21 am
    The job of the press is to constantly question the government of the day on its promises and deliveries. Whether the promises are equitable, and whether the deliveries are prompt. Where such dialogues are not made possible, the seeds of hegemony creeps in. Autocracy takes root and democracy finds itself in a precarious condition. There may be a few ignoramuses who feel that such a condition is good for the nation. But that is part of democracy and can safely be ignored. PM Modi is reluctant in talking to the press for the reasons mentioned in the article. Especially after his notorious brush with Karan Thapar. But he has learnt that ruling by ordinances has limited use and too much liability. He could have learnt a phenomenal amount of things during the three terms that he had in Gujarat. Instead he wasted his enormous talents in building a narrative that is now slowly crumbling around him. Gujarat remains undeveloped, and unfortunately, India is going down the same slope.
    Reply
    1. M
      Mahesh
      Jun 13, 2017 at 6:27 pm
      Maybe he is avoiding the press because he doesn't want to b questioned about the Gujarat riots. But was the reporting on the riots fair and accurate? If you will read madhu kishwars book 'modi Muslims and media' you will realise that it was biased and unfair. Not surprisingly, the book has never been reviewed by mainstream media. Are they too scared that their biases will be exposed?
      Reply
      1. Sachin Chavan
        Jun 13, 2017 at 1:55 pm
        s: /watch?v yAdfHGAJPh4
        Reply
        1. Sachin Chavan
          Jun 13, 2017 at 1:54 pm
          Answer is very simple, to avoid googlies ... watch the video .. you will get the answer s: /watch?v yAdfHGAJPh4
          Reply
          1. Usman Kankalathil
            Jun 13, 2017 at 1:55 am
            In a democracy the bridge between the government and people is the media ,it is the Fourth Estate.Man ki baat or Tweeting is somehow good but, however, it is not an interaction in true sense with the people.It is mere a one man's sharing or imposing of his own views on others.For a good leader who is ambitious for good governance in a democratic country should dare to come and face the media,Otherwise, democracy will be ruined and the country gradually will shift to autocracy.
            Reply
            1. Sama Al Shamikha
              Jun 13, 2017 at 1:52 am
              Well...I am a Bhakt...So as you should know first. PM Modi is Doing his work sincerely. We who elected him..and believe me we are in majority .. So please dont Insult Democracy by cal us Blind Bhakts.. He is doing perfectly right to not to talk with The so called Fourth Column - which may or may not be doing Paid News - AND WE THE PEOPLE WHO ELECTED HIM WITH MAJORITY "APPROVE HIS TOTAL AVOIDANCE OF THE MEDIA". Media asks and is only concerned abt Gorakshaks...and surprisingly Not concerned abt the Developments He is Doing,, !! So He is Doing his Job Perfectly... We DO NOT Need Media to tell us How and What he is Doing. We are much clever than you think.
              Reply
              1. Bobby
                Jun 12, 2017 at 11:46 pm
                this report is like as if when there is no Private media, India does not exist at all
                Reply
                1. L
                  Lord
                  Jun 12, 2017 at 8:36 pm
                  Modi is answerable to Indians not to media. He is the only PM in the world, who very frequently talks to his country people. No politician or ruler ever has spoken to his countrymen so frequently as Modi has spoken. Your article goes for the dustbin.
                  Reply
                  1. S
                    Sanjay
                    Jun 12, 2017 at 7:57 pm
                    Where is the need to articulate views thru d press. This govt is doing enough to keep d nation informed about its activities. Why is the press fee left out? As it is the press is'nt fair keeps foo the public by biased views. The 4th estate has never been impartial to political leaders only wants to create situations to increase its TRPs. Modi ji is doing a very good job and let us not hate or criticise him for the sake of doing so. Time to start appreciating the good works with facts figures instead of being in a negative mode. For years we've been fooled with distorted history eulogising only a select few completely ignoring the selfless work of so many social and political leaders. It is time history is corrected. The country has been brutally divided on religious caste n Creed basis. It is time the Nation is United. Nation MUST come first. The present govt is trying to do just that but it cannot happen in a jiffy. Confidence building has to take place. Wait n watch
                    Reply
                    1. Harshal Patil
                      Jun 12, 2017 at 2:09 pm
                      A prime minister would time and again appear on the media to build confidence in the masses about his government's activities, Modi doesn't need that. He has a huge number in the Parliament and vast public approval. He also has cir vented the media by reaching out to the people personally, via Mann Ki Baat. Even if a situation arises and he needs to appear on the media, he can do so still by avoiding Lutyens media. You're just being cut out. And your relevance and need in India is being reduced, rightfully so. You're being kept out of the narrative building process which was important in the time of UPA because it was such a failure but now, you're just noise.
                      Reply
                      1. T
                        Tama
                        Jun 11, 2017 at 2:31 pm
                        Sachin won't dare answering kallis gilchrist lara jayasuriya but will gladly answer chashmallu jockers like harsh Gokhale who never did sports in life.....no vote for a graduation failure candidate and below and no clippings like wannabes for anyone who was made to believe by under graduates to be a great being.......it's time to question and get answers for our country let the wannabes be exported to countries which shall gladly endorse them.......else a very bad day for us highly honest and educated section of the country is knocking at the dor.....remember wannabes clap even if not paid.....real pros charge for even spitting forget of making noise
                        Reply
                        1. T
                          Tama
                          Jun 11, 2017 at 2:19 pm
                          Just becoz of the reason Sachin would shy a questionare with kallis gilchrist anwar jaisuryia etc etc .....good or bad I leave my countrymen to decide but yes it's time to get answers and re question the made to believe greats else we're gonna die of starvation real soon!remember wannabes love clapping pros charge for making noise......we must awake and no voting of graduation p out certificate not produced in booth
                          Reply
                          1. M
                            Madhav Bastodker
                            Jun 11, 2017 at 1:03 pm
                            Why Modi should talk to the nation through a media which has preoccupied and biased view of Modi and to his beliefs. There is genuine fear that replies will be mutilated, and words and phrases morphed. It is waste of time. He talks to people to whom he is responsible and accountable. That is enough. Let media tune to Man ki Baat.
                            Reply
                            1. Orange East
                              Jun 10, 2017 at 3:51 pm
                              Hindu hating, sickular media press utes cannot be trusted to do anything except to demonize Hindus and pro Hindu leadership with incessant lies. That is why they have been denied a role. Rightly so.
                              Reply
                              1. Vitthal Jonnalagadda
                                Jun 10, 2017 at 7:22 pm
                                Useless article
                                Reply
                              2. Load More Comments

                              Go to Top