Modi calls himself head of state in an interview which ended up as PR exercise
Smarting from the fallout of the failed bid at NSG, Narendra Modi's first interview as prime minister fails to go beyond the obvious
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, once again displayed his skills as a public relations expert on Monday when he used the interview to a private TV channel to tide over the severe setback at NSG meeting in Seoul.
The interview choreographed in way which suited Modi and BJP politically, saw the prime minister explaining the elementary theories of foreign policy and economics.
Through out the 75 minute interview he gave to Times Now, the PM presented himself as the man who understood the world and the country more than any of his predecessors.
Modi's penchant for one upmanship became evident when he explained to an unusually "subdued" Arnab Goswami that he is the head of the state. This gaffe (or is it a well thought out slip of tongue?) came, twice when he was explaining to the interviewer about the basics of his foreign policy.
Starting very humbly, Modi said the world leaders did not have any idea of him so the onus was on him to familiarise himself with them.
Knowing the "head of the state of India" was a necessity for the leaders of other nations to maintain friendly relations with us. This, he kept on repeating, several times.
Modi claimed that the success his government could achieve is due to the political stability made possible by the simple majority, his party got in the 2014 election. Which was not the case for the 30 years.
Modi said international perception towards India has changed because of this. The prime minister did not explain this nor did the interviewer asked on how drastic changes in foreign policy were achieved during the prime ministership of I K Gujral, A B Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh.
Devoid of his usual high voltage histrionics, Goswami allowed Modi to wax eloquent on the achievements his government made on economic front, including financial inclusion schemes and his favourite programmes like Make in India, Stand Up India, Swachh Bharat etc.
There was no combativeness and the camaraderie was evident throughout, to the point that the prime minister referred to the interviewer as "bhai saheb" once.
But there was no mention of increasing farmers suicides and rural deprivation.
The interviewer who through out the interview made it habit to praise prime minister waited till the end of the interview to talk about the farm crisis.
And Modi utilised the opportunity to detail the salient features of the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Yojana and other initiatives in the sector.
It is another matter that despite these measures the suicides rates among farmers increased during the last two years.
Only time prime minister seemed to take position on a controversial issue was when asked about Subramanain Swamy and his vitriolic attacks on RBI governor and top officials of finance ministry.
Modi said " fondness for publicity is never going to do any good to the nation. People should conduct themselves with utmost responsibility. If anybody considers himself above the system, it is wrong."
He was categorical in rejecting Swamy's criticism about central bank governor Raghuram Rajan when he said "my experience with him has been good and I appreciate the work that he has done.
He is no less patriotic. He loves India. Wherever he will work, he will work for India and he is patriotic.”
Oblivious of what BJP had done while out of power for ten consecutive years, the prime minister indirectly attacked the the opposition for the logjam in the Parliament.
When asked about whether he would continue to stick on development agenda for the 2017 UP election, Modi made a general statement saying that development would solve all the problems.
And asked the media to desist from projecting those who spreads communalism as heroes.
The interview concluded with Modi's claim that other than during election time, he does not make a political comment. Describing himself as an apolitical prime minister, he cited his Gujarat stint as a proof for this.
There were no questions on the recent revelations how Modi government functioned in Gujarat during the time of 2002 riots and the various fake encounter cases that followed.
The issues that have dominated the political landscape -- be it intolerance, right to food, attack on Dalits and minorities -- were not asked or answered.