Editorial: Is Narendra Modi a Coward?
By refusing to address a press conference, the prime minister of India has revealed who he truly is.
Narendra Modi will go down in history as a prime minister who neither had the temerity nor the courage to hold a press conference and face real and critical questions from the media about the functioning and policies of his government. This is egregious and severely telling of a leader whose vitriolic and insidious attacks on the media have not only left the fourth pillar weak, compromised and pliant — “journalists” openly and unabashedly do his and the government’s bidding every evening on “news” channels and editorials — but an entire propaganda machinery works overtime to project the PM as a “strongman” and macho leader with a “56-inch chest”.
If Narendra Modi truly believes his government has selflessly stood to serve the best interests of the nation, has tirelessly toiled to roll out policies and initiatives aimed at improving the betterment of people’s lives and livelihood, and has single-mindedly strove to strengthen India’s democracy and position in the world, as he claims he has achieved, then why is he so afraid to speak to the media? What is it that he’s so worried will be asked of him?
It’s ironic that late last year, on December 18, 2018, it took former prime minister of India, Manmohan Singh, at the launch of Changing India, a five-volume collection of his writing and speeches, to say: “I was not the prime minister who was afraid of talking to the press.” Singh was a head of state who was not long ago ridiculed by leaders in today’s dispensation and critics as “Maunmohan”, “silent” and even an “accidental” prime minister. If there’s one thing Modi has indeed, miraculously and single-handedly achieved in less than a full term, it is to turn Manmohan Singh’s words — that history will judge him more kindly — ring prophetic.
It takes a simple assessment of five years of this government to conclude that Modi prides himself narcissistically as a leader of many firsts. But to go down in history of independent India as a prime minister who spent a full term avoiding all opportunities to face the press head-on and nixed all official communications once coming to power, instead choosing to reach out to masses only through social media handles and staged interviews, makes even US president Donald Trump’s attacks on the American press appear amateur.
Instead of questioning and challenging this frightful dictatorial precedence set by Modi, the government has ensured members of the press hail this as a feature of creating “a new paradigm of talking directly to people”.
Last evening, TV news anchor Bhupendra Chaubey in his show on CNN-News18 expressed in an extremely convoluted fashion his viewpoint that the PM’s decision to not address a press conference is justified because the Opposition led by the Congress believes Modi is not being “transparent” by opening democratic channels with the media.
“In a democracy, what matters most is whether people are listening to you. And whether people are willing to trust the comments made by a leader… with or without the media,” said Chaubey. “There is no point if Manmohan Singh did many press conferences and the people were unwilling to believe in him. It does not help the cause of democracy.”
ANI’s Smita Prakash has also echoed similar views in the past. What Chaubey managed to achieve was not only destroy and negate the role of a free press in a democracy, thereby nulling and invalidating his own credibility as a journalist, but discrediting and besmirching his noble profession at the behest of the state so that they come clean.
Today the people of India demand answers.
Modi needs to hold a press conference and explain why unemployment has peaked in the last few years, given that he had come to power on the promise of creating employment. Why has so little been done to quell the deepening of the farm crisis? Why has his tenure seen the biggest uprising of farmers? Why is our banking system in a fix? What has the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government really done to rein in on public defaulters and how exactly has it quelled the NPA crisis? What was the point of demonetisation — why did the Modi government make the nation suffer so gravely for a cause that’s still unclear? No amount of spin today has been able to answer its necessity apart from vaulting the BJP’s own political ambitions.
Why did it interfere in the functioning of democratic institutions like the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Reserve Bank of India, the Supreme Court and the Election Commission? Why have hate crimes risen in its tenure? Why are Muslims and Dalits under constant attack and being awarded the status of second-class citizens? What is “Love Jihad” and why did this bigoted conspiracy theory get floated shortly after the Modi government came to power? Why did the government pay a higher price for the 36 Rafale fighter aircraft than what the UPA-government had agreed to pay in 2012 for 126 Rafale aircraft? Why did the Prime Minister’s Office go out of its way to help Anil Ambani? Why has there been a concerted effort made to stifle dissent in the country? Why are academics and scientists being challenged on a day to day basis? Why were ideological battlefields — that have led to violence and death — drawn on college campuses?
By refusing to face the press, Modi in five years has shown what he truly is cowardly, insincere, vain, vitriolic, and autocratic.