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Sai's Take: When Modi was thankful to Rahul

Last updated on: May 09, 2019 11:17 IST

'I am not a politician removed from the people, I get constant feedback from top to bottom, my connect with the masses is direct, not through the media, so I know what is going on.'
Saisuresh Sivaswamy listens to the PM explain why he believes 'for the first time in this country, a pro-incumbency wave is on.'

A 2015 photograph of Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi greeting then Congress vice-president Rabhul Gandhi

Given how interesting it is to see one-on-one interviews rather than a panel go at each other, saying the same old things on different TV channels, it is a mystery why each prime time capsule doesn't include at least one interview.

Wednesday night saw the Trinamool Congress's voice of articulation, Derek O'Brien, speak to NDTV's Nidhi Razdan on the daily slanging match between his party chief Mamata Banerjee and Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi.

And the latter himself doing something unusual -- granting an interview on the campaign trail to a second-rung journalist from a TV network when the top bosses from all media houses must be lining up to talk to him.

Republic TV, leading with hashtag #JustModi, chose to do what it does best, get outraged over the revelations that Rajiv Gandhi (yawn) in 1988 took along his family aboard a naval warship, for which, of course, his children must answer now, probably pay up the bill too while at it, and if possible abjure public life for the omissions and commissions of their later father.

O'Brien pointed out something unusual about Modi's campaign speeches -- the non-mention of demonetisation which, till the other day, was touted as a major achievement against black money/terrorism. What he didn't say was that there was no mention of Vikas, Achche Din either, all campaign hot buttons from 2014.

That is because, O'Brien was convinced, 'The people have made up their minds, the momentum is with the Opposition and in Bengal it is with Mamata.'

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'We are getting news that in the elections so far, the regional parties are doing well. In Uttar Pradesh the Mahagathbandhan between the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party is going well.'

 

That the Bharatiya Janata Party expects a reasonably good harvest from Bengal is no secret.

That it is fast emerging as an alternative -- however distant -- is also no secret.

Those who scoff at the chasm between the TMC and the BJP in terms of both seat share and vote share are ignoring the fact that the BJP has, through its organisational network and relentless mobilisation, turned a similar situation in many states to its advantge.

Like in Maharashtra where, from playing second fiddle to the Shiv Sena, it is the ruling party today.

If such recent history worries O'Brien, he showed no signs of it.

'They don't have a single speaker in Bengali, even their Hindi speeches are not translated into Bengali,' he said. 'Will their own party president in the state be able to win his seat this time? They have two ministers from the state, will they be able to win their seats?'

'It is a noble objective to become the principal Opposition party, but the Modi-Amit Shah combine will be shown up in Bengal.'

While fighting fire with fire may be a good strategy, putting it into practice during election time means that the discourse gets dragged into the mud, something Mamata Banerjee can also be accused of. A street-fighter turned chief minister, she is not one to take barbs -- throwing which Modi is a past master at -- lying down.

But does it behove her office to use phrases like 'drenched in blood' while referring to the prime minister, Nidhi wanted to know, and got back a very BJPesque response.

'That is factual, she was only stating the facts,' O'Brien said.

Sai's Take

Speaking to Times Now, Modi too was convinced that the people have made up their minds.

Debunking the view that his government was facing voter ire and may not secure a majority on its own, Modi said, 'I am of the view that for the first time in this country, a pro-incumbency wave is on.'

Could he put a number to it?

'I have no doubt that we will get a bigger majority than the last time, as will the NDA allies. Our total seat tally will increase, our vote share will also go up compared to last time.'

Modi, who is betting this election on his personal charisma with and appeal to the voters, has kept a punishing campaign schedule. The BJP's sole vote-catcher, he has been criss-crossing the country, addressing as many meetings as possible.

Asked about the source of his confidence that the BJP will do better, when even within the ruling front there have been voices of caution, Modi said, 'This confidence does not come from me, but from the people themselves. This confidence stems from the work that we have done, and the people's belief in the work.'

'As you know, I am not a politician removed from the people, I get constant feedback from top to bottom, my connect with the masses is direct, not through the media, so I know what is going on.'

In which case it begs the question why, instead of focusing on real issues in the campaign, he is talking about Pakistan etc?

'I have been raising the real issues,' said Modi, 'But the Opposition is not interested in debating them. I told them let us discuss development, let us discuss various other issues, but they ran away, they are not interested.'

'As for Pakistan, I have only raised terrorism which has been an issue for 40 years. You must remember that this is not an election for the Rohtak municipality or the Kurukshetra municipality, but an election for India.'

Turning to his pet subject, the Congress dynasty, Modi referred to an India Today interview with Rahul Gandhi but without taking his name. 'In an interview their naamdaar has said he wants to destroy Modi's image, look at the language used, he says he wants to destroy me. But those who are upset at me for asking questions, have not said anything about this.'

'But I can understand why he is saying this, how can a chaiwallah like me dare to ask a naamdaar anything? How can a chaiwallah speak the truth?'

But does it justify Modi raising questions about a dead prime minister, and asking for elections to be fought on it?

'I did not ask the questions, but the people have asked these questions. You ask questions of the current prime minister, and the nation will ask questions of the former prime minister.'

If there was one thing Modi was thankful to Rahul Gandhi for, it was his mention that Modi's karma will catch up with him.

'I am glad he said this, it is because of my karma that someone from a humble background like me, whose parents, grandparents were not prime ministers, could reach the high office that I am occupying today, my karma will take me ahead, so I am thankful to him for pointing this out.'

Since a famous NRI Bollywood actor interviewed Modi, it has become mandatory that all interviews include an aam question, and this was Times Now's: Modiji, what is the secret of your mann ki shanti?

To which the prime minister replied: Janta ka pyaar.

SAISURESH SIVASWAMY / Rediff.com
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