Like Obama, PM should address Indians more often

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Manmohan Singh
Bangalore, Sept 22: In his address to the nation yesterday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stoutly defended certain reforms which have sparked a furore of late. With almost all the news channels telecasting the speech, Indians got a fair idea of why the Centre had opted for: i) a steep hike in diesel price, ii) fixed a cap on the number of LPG cylinders for each family/consumer and iii) permitted FDI in multi-brand retail.

One can argue that the PM should have made the aam aadmi aware of the government's economic compulsions much before the BJP and the Left parties organised a nationwide bandh on Sept 19 to highlight their strong protest over the aforementioned issues.

He could have knocked the wind out of the opposition's sails, yet the PM chose to remain mum until an important constituent of the UPA broke ranks with the ruling party. He reacted only when Union ministers belonging to the Trinamool Congress tendered their resignation.

Actually, the PM was addressing the people after a long gap. Discounting his routine Independence Day speech every year, he had last appeared on national television in Nov 2008 to condemn the Mumbai terror attacks.

Leaders in other countries are not so hesitant to express their views. For example, millions of Americans tune in every week to listen to what President Barack Obama is saying.

The US president's Weekly Radio Address is a long standing tradition. Franklin Delano Roosevelt started the "fireside chats" while he was serving as the Governor of New York. On occupying the White House, he continued with the weekly broadcasts.

Though some of Roosevelt's successors were less enthusiastic about the practice, Ronald Reagan made it a point to deliver a talk to the citizens every Saturday.

An audio podcast feed was tried out first during the tenure of George W Bush while video address was introduced by Obama.

Thanks to the White House website and YouTube, now netizens of different nationalities can log in and watch the US president make the weekly speech.

Our PM will reach out to a much wider audience if he does the same. However, that seems to be asking for too much from the present incumbent of 7 Race Course Road given how rarely he is heard.

Manmohan Singh's aides have been very critical of the way some foreign publications have portrayed him recently. Instead of venting their ire on such opinion pieces, they should perhaps advise him to be more accessible to the public at large.

Perception is of vital importance in today's world. The sooner the PM realises this, it is better for him. A weekly or even monthly address to the nation won't harm his image. It may well turn out to be the game changer. Is the PMO listening?

OneIndia News 

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