“On the sensitive issue of the huge price rise demanded by natural gas exploring companies in the Krishna-Godavari basin, Modi tried to be evasive but indicated that if required the price may have to be increased,” says the interviewer, Dilip Gohil.
Narendra Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate, has suddenly started giving interviews to regional television channels and his favourite journalists and editors. His office had received around 300 requests for interviews, says a senior officer in the Gujarat government.
He has given so many interviews in the run-up to the elections that one could lose count of the number. However, he plays favourites as all politicians do, and has paid special attention to granting interviews to Tamil, Gujarati and Andhra Pradesh-based television channels.
Since 2002, Modi has never had intimate interactions with the Gujarati media or media-persons. However, recently, he gave more than two interviews in Gujarati because he wants to win all the 26 Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat on the theme of “dharti na choru” (son of the soil) who is embarking upon a “new national struggle for Su-Raj” (good governance) ‘in the footsteps of the struggle for Swaraj by another Gujarati Mahatma Gandhi’, claims Modi’s advertisement in Gujarati.
His appeal on radio to voters clearly says, ‘just as Gujaratis felt proud when Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel led the nation, let another Gujarati be given a chance now so that Gujaratis can feel proud once again’. His election speeches in Gujarat are emotional and humble.
Recently, Modi gave a couple of interviews to the Gujarati media, one of them to GSTV, a channel owned by the Gujarat Samachar group. Dilip Gohil, senior journalist and formerly of Rediff.com, who interviewed Modi, said, “Any interview with Modi becomes news in Gujarat because he rarely gives one-on-one interviews.”
On his home turf, Modi was asked questions ranging from L K Advani to Pakistan.
When asked about his “Guru-Shishya” relationship with Advani, Modi almost denied being a shishya of Advani. According to Gohil, Modi says in the interview, “We are all colleagues and working for the larger cause of the BJP.” Modi, though, generously gave credit to Advani for his long journey in politics.
Gohil says, “On the sensitive issue of the huge price rise demanded by natural gas exploring companies in the Krishna-Godavari basin, Modi tried to be evasive but indicated that if required the price may have to be increased.”
GSPC, a Gujarat government-promoted corporation, has demanded a massive hike of 14 dollars for natural gas, while Reliance has already got a hike of eight dollars in the review.
Gohil says, “The real reason behind his agreeing to give interview after interview is perhaps the criticism that he is avoiding difficult questions and not answering about his actions. Also, his fans love watching Modi mauling the interviewer. It adds to his strength."
Modi has also given an hour-long interview to Doordarshan – looks like the official broadcaster is gearing up for the expected regime change.
Gohil says, “Modi enjoyed giving us the interview, he seemed relaxed. He enjoyed talking about the price rise of gold, and reminded us of the gold smuggling era of Morarji Desai. Because of gold smuggling, a large part of which was being done on the Gujarat coast, the mafia and gangsters thrived, he said, and criticised the gold import policies of the UPA government. He gave hints that maybe the price of natural gas may go up but gold import controls may see some easing.”
Before starting every interview, Modi combs his hair and selects his jackets carefully. He is very particular about his hairdo.
A video team from the Gujarat information department records all his interviews. It now has more than 43 camera teams, and has become an efficient PR machine.
When Modi gives interviews, no private photographer is allowed nor is the guest allowed to take pictures. Modi’s pictures are taken only by select photographers from his office.
Gohil says, “Modi wanted the Gujarati interview to be Gujarat-centric. When I tried to raise national issues, he found it uncomfortable. And as usual he made fun of me in a couple of question, and criticised us for raking up issues out of turn, but we loved it because it is our job to raise relevant issues.”
He gave us a tongue-lashing for raising the “guru-shishya” issue in particular.
After interviewing him, Gohil says, “I am convinced Modi is still what he is. He is nobody’s chela.”
Image: Narendra Modi with the interviewer, Dilip Gohil.