Rahul promises to have more press conferences, will Modi follow suit?
Bengaluru, May 11: On Thursday, the "vitriol-filled" campaign for the Karnataka Assembly elections, scheduled on Saturday (May 12), came to an end. On the last day of the campaign, instead of attending any rally or visiting religious institution, Congress president Rahul Gandhi decided to meet the press and take direct questions from journalists in Bengaluru.
As a part of the Karnataka poll campaign, Rahul has already addressed the media on a couple of occasions, at times impromptu too. The decision of Rahul to talk to journalists and take their questions, which most often big national leaders like Prime Minister Narendra Modi avoid, seems to have gone down well with the journalist fraternity of the country.
After all, how many Mann ki Baat (PM Modi's monthly radio broadcast which critics call a one way conversation) the nation will endure? By talking to the media, politicians actually directly address the questions the people of the nation want to raise to their leaders. As they say, the media is the voice of the nation. The best part is that journalists ask difficult questions (these days it is a rarity), but nonetheless pertinent ones.
On Thursday's press meet, Rahul too was confronted with a range of questions (but not so difficult ones we must say), but he answered all of them very bravely and smartly. Rahul, who till a few months ago was derided by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and critics for his "lack of oratory skills and quick thinking", showcased great maturity and panache amid "interrogation".
What won Rahul brownie points was the answer to the question raised by Maya Sharma of NDTV regarding Sonia Gandhi's (his mother and the former Congress president) Italian origin--a topic the BJP often raises, especially during the election times, to attack the Gandhi family.
For any child, his/her mother is precious, and any attack on the parent is hard to take. Rahul's face too was flushed with emotions the moment his mother's name was mentioned, but he did not let the opposition attack against his family lose his calm.
The Congress president admitted that his mother was an Italian, but he added that she was more Indian than many. "My mother is an Italian. She has lived a large part of her life in India. She is more Indian than many people I see," Rahul said.
Regarding his "ambition" to be the next PM of the country--which PM Modi called his "arrogance"--Rahul had a very smart answer to it. The Congress president said Modi's attack on him declaring his prime ministerial ambition was aimed at distracting attention. "This election (the Karnataka elections) is not about Rahul," he said.
"I have now learnt to deal with the Prime Minister. When he can't respond, he distracts," Rahul told reporters. He also said Modi sees a 'threat' in him. "Modi has anger inside... he has anger for everybody, not just me ...and sees a threat in me," Rahul added.
Rahul admitted that he enjoyed the press meet where he was seen cracking jokes in the middle of taking some serious questions from his "media friends". He was equally "sorry" that all the journalists could not ask him questions because of time constraints.
"Enjoyed meeting the regional & national press today in Bengaluru. We had a packed house! I'm sorry not everyone got a chance to ask a question due to the paucity of time. But, unlike our PM who hasn't had a press conference in 4 yrs., I will be doing many more of these!" he tweeted.
Enjoyed meeting the regional & national press today in Bengaluru. We had a packed house! I’m sorry not everyone got a chance to ask a question due to the paucity of time.— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) May 10, 2018
But, unlike our PM who hasn’t had a press conference in 4 yrs., I will be doing many more of these! pic.twitter.com/tzNVHVLXdu
In his tweet, Rahul also raised the issue of PM Modi not having a press conference in the last four years as the head of the country. Modi did give a couple of interviews to some media houses, which are seen close to the current establishment and bereft of any critical questions.
PM Modi has often criticised journalists, especially those who are critical towards him. The "anti-establishment" journalists have openly said that the current situation in the country under the BJP regime does not allow them to raise critical issues as they face intimidation and ostracisation.
The Indian media too is a divided house where one group openly supports and defends every move of the present government and the other group (where a miniscule portion of journalists belong) continues to raise inconvenient questions. There is also a third group--where a sizeable number of "silent" journalists have taken refuge, probably waiting for times to change.
While times are unlikely to change soon, looking at the polarised atmosphere of the country, the nation hopes PM Modi speaks to the media directly soon in a press conference and shows the guts to answer some unpleasant questions.