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Sai's Take: What I learnt from Modi's Express interview

Last updated on: May 13, 2019 10:05 IST

'Modi's interview style is distinct, and alas one that is increasingly being followed by others as well, notably by the man who is out to challenge him, Rahul Gandhi.'
'This may appear aggressive and combative to readers and viewers, but the fact is that sometimes it becomes unclear as to who is interviewing who,' discovers Saisuresh Sivaswamy.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com

Not everybody likes to be interviewed. Certainly not Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi who, unusually, has been giving a flurry of interviews to the media in the dying phases of the elections.

I say unusually, because his five-year term in office was marked by very few interviews. While this gives us hope that he will still invite Rediff.com over for a tete-a-tete, it has been a learning experience to go through his interviews, especially the print ones.

The biggest he has granted so far has to be to the Indian Express (sorry, Times of India) on Sunday, at his 7 Jan Kalyan Marg residence in New Delhi that spanned 90 minutes.

Modi's interview style is distinct, and alas one that is increasingly being followed by others as well, notably by the man who is out to challenge him, Rahul Gandhi. This may appear aggressive and combative to readers and viewers ('kya faad diya tha yaar, interview mein'), but the fact is that sometimes it becomes unclear as to who is interviewing who.

A case in point is the interview to Indian Express during which countless jibes were thrown at the newspaper's coverage (apart from at his pet peeves, Congress and dynasty), even questioning its credibility if you will.

Still there are many things that I have learnt from Modi's most recent interview (sorry, but nothing on radars).

 

Modi is a fun person

'I am a fun person.. My Cabinet meetings are also filled light moments. But it has been given a political colour... (When) I am working, I believe in focused activity, I am totally involved. And when I am free (relaxed), I really keep myself free.'

Why Modi travels

'Those who ran the government from Vigyan Bhavan and Cabinet rooms (will find) this objectionable. They should be questioned. If the prime minister doesn't keep travelling across the country, how will he be aware of all that is happening? This should be acknowledged, that this prime minister does not go travelling on a holiday.'

What 282 seats does not get you

'Getting the Indian Express to be objective in criticism of Modi.'

How he views government ads to media

'I give advertisement to the Indian Express, it doesn't benefit me, but is it a dole? Advertisements to newspapers may fit into a description of dole. After December 11, DAVP rates were enhanced, it is a dole?'

Reference to Arun Shourie

Possibly because he was not asked about the BJP 'rebels' like Arun Shourie, Yashwant Sinha and Shatrughan Sinha, Modi, to my limited knowledge, has not mentioned them in interviews. The Indian Express interview too did not ask him about them, so it was a gratuitous reference he made to the most famous editor of the newspaper:

'Take the example of -- Indian Express's one-time karta-dharta (whole and soul) had written an article on the merger of banks in the country as a big reform.'

The Muslim question

'These MPs/MLAs who call themselves secular, have they given leadership to any Muslim? Rahul Gandhi is Congress president. Can't a Muslim get that job? Why did he not ensure that? Why shouldn't Dalits/Muslims/Tribals be chairman of, say Lions Club, why should everything be in politics? Why aren't Muslims being made chiefs in journalism? Why have you kept it so? We are responsible? We have just come now.'

Questions of Indian Express

'When a terrorist receives death from the Supreme Court of India there was a headline like 'And they hanged him'. But that was free speech, was it?'

'I have answered (your questions) politely. But you will have to answer some questions as well. A Dalit girl is raped in Alwar and it doesn't become a headline in Indian Express till May 6 (when polls concluded in Rajasthan), it will raise questions on the neutrality of the Indian Express... Can you listen to it whether you like it or not? You can ask all the questions to me, but if we make a counter-questions we are called offensive.'

Sermon to media

'Yeh jo do taraju hai na, mera neutrality se jhagda is baat ka hai (,em>my quarrel is with the different scales of neutrality).'

'Now you cannot frighten us with the veil of media.'

'It wouldn't matter to me whether a report is by Ravish or Rahul or someone else. Because all that mattered was the Indian Express. But with the advent of social media, I can look at 50 tweets of Ravish and make an impression. Aaj aap benaqab ho gaye hain, sabhi patrakar (you have been exposed, all you journalists).'

'Your personal views are visible on social media. People now analyse that the personal views being reflected in the media are not the neutrality of the media, isilie, aaj aapki pratishtha jo daaon pe lagi hai, iske kaaran lagi hai (if your reputation is on the line, it is because of that).'

'The crisis of credibility is not of the media, but the person who is working there. So do not abuse us. Did we censor your questions here? But you have made an image of me as someone who will censor.'

Sai's Take

Travelled to 45 countries before 2002

'I travelled to about 45 countries before becoming the CM, for a variety of reasons. I will share an anecdote. Delta Airways used to have a $500 ticket with which you could travel for up to 30 days from the date of the first travel..'

'I doubt anyone else would have used that ticket as much as I did. I planned my route perfectly, in such a way that I would be onboard at night, get six hours to sleep on the plane. It would save me hotel expenses.'

'I would bathe and freshen up at the airport in the morning. I had a calling card which I used to ring up my hosts to come receive me. I travelled 23 states across America this way.'

Personal touch in foreign policy

'Foreign policy has mostly been practised with an academic perspective. Foreign ministers, too, have been guided by academics or think-tanks. I am away from this.'

'I do not have an academic background nor am I disconnected from the public. For me, my priority is the country. This is my patriotism. So that is how I make my relationships (with global leaders).'

'Personal equations play a strong role in understanding each other. My friendly equations with them are reflected in their policies as well. They will remember Modi and this is what he had said.'

SAISURESH SIVASWAMY / Rediff.com
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