Saturday, 25 October 2014

Modi's meet with media: There was no breaking news, but no one was complaining

It was one grouse that media persons held against Narendra Modi – that he has not interacted with them since the time he became Prime Minister. The journalists thought of the PM's interaction on Saturday in terms of a question and answer session, an open press conference or in select groups.
But Modi silenced that kind of criticism. He did interact with media persons for about an hour. But his idea of interaction was different. It was more of a reach out, a friendly get together than what one would generally expect when the PM meets the press.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Reuters
There was no breaking news. But nobody was complaining. It was one of those rare occasions when over hundred journalists who gathered looked satisfied even without getting a straight news story. Most of them had smiles on their faces. What they spoke about was not about the stories they had to file, but how PM Modi interacted with him or her.
During the course of interaction with media persons — owners of media houses, editor-in-chiefs, correspondents of all seniority levels and photo journalists — he yet again proved that he has an elephantine memory as also the capacity to update himself on the work that an individual journalist did and how major publications were doing, print, electronic and web.
He called most media persons by name, asked about there well being and moved on to another desk. Those who met him for the first time were given due opportunity to introduce themselves and have a word. But no question answers. Too many smiles and too much of laughter were the hallmark of the day.
After all, it was called 'Diwali Milan'. It was an attempt to convey a message on his part that he and the media did not have an adversarial relationship, the post of Prime Minister had not made him arrogant, just that the circumstances had changed.
Modi’s brief opening address made it clear that those looking for a breaking news or straight news story would be disappointed. But then he began by going into nostalgia: "Woh din bhi kuch aur the. Khulkar bate hotin thi... Main yahan aap logon ke liye taiyari kiya karta tha... khul kar baten hoti thi. Ab main kuch rasta khoj raha hun ki woh purana rishta phir se kaise majboot kiya ja sake (Those olden days were different. We used to talk freely. I used to do preparations such a meet and wait for you guys. For some time I am wondering as to how re-connect and strengthen that old relationship.)
Modi said informal interactions were always gainful for him. Not a word on the perceived hostility that he had with the media, particularly English, no sarcastic comments, only words of general bonhomie, flowing out with his usual ease. He didn’t say it in as many words but he gave a sense that the media should get away from sensationalism to contribute positively in nation building.
The Clean India campaign seems to have become his passion. He asked media honchos to cooperate in this movement. "Ek PM akele haath me jhadu uthane se kuch nahi ho sakta. Aap apne kalam ko jhadu me badal den (A PM with broom stick, going out cleaning on his own could not do anything. It would be a great help if media persons could turn their might pen into broom). In post Independent India there has been a feeling that the government alone would do good for the people but now that mood is changing. We all will work together and bring about the desired changes.”
That was also his attempt to another criticism against him that his government was individual centric, guided all the time by Modi's dictatorial streak and had a penchant for micromanagement. He didn’t refer to his critics but the message could not be lost his critics.
Senior ministers of the Modi government were present, to give the PM company on the dais and later spoke informally with the media. Host Amit Shah ensured that all senior leaders stayed there and interacted informally at length with the invitees from the media.
Finance and Defence Minister Arun Jaitleym, who is generally very friendly with media, interacted face-to-face with the media for the first time after his surgery. He had to leave early to attend a meeting in the Defence Ministry. Home Minister Rajnath Singh chatted at length about how he told the BSF that “no more White Flags, go all out when Pakistan violates ceasefire”. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who had been mostly been travelling out of the country, was there to provide perspective on how things were moving in her domain. It was also her first interaction with political journalists since the time she took over as the foreign minister. I&B Minister Prakash Javdekar relished talking, so did Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Power Minister Piyush Goel. Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad was stuck at Rashtrapati Bhawan in an official function and arrived late.
Yes, there was one potential breaking news but that came a bit late – over lunch when Amit Shah said that elections in Jammu & Kashmir were not being postponed and were being held as scheduled along with Jharkhand. The EC later made the announcement at 4 pm.