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The silence of the Prime Minister

The Prime Minister has not spoken to the nation in these dire times
Last Updated : 11 May 2021, 02:35 IST

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When the country is ravaged by the pandemic and even as there is a cacophonous debate on how and why we came to this killing pass, there is a conspicuous silence running through the nation. Debates are made of words, sometimes with numbers to prop them up, and they are limited to television studios and the printed paper now. There are no conversations because people don’t get to meet and talk. The roar of the rallies has died down and most streets are falling silent as vehicles are locked down and footfalls are shy and slow. The silence in the homes of many, young and old, who have left without a word has added sobriety and solemnity to the national silence, which is growing louder by the day. One voice that should have been at the heart of the debates and the conversations, and should have streaked through all the silences, is missing. That is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s.

The Prime Minister has not spoken to the nation in these dire times when worries, anxieties and fear rule the minds of people. The last time that he was seen talking to the people was in April when he was making promises and throwing challenges from electoral pulpits, mainly in West Bengal. He also made an address in which he advised the people to follow the protocols, which neither he nor anyone else observed anywhere. When the politics receded, and the second wave of the pandemic started coursing through the nation, a number of issues about its management have come to the fore. They concern the shortage of vaccines, oxygen cylinders and hospital beds, the queues at the crematoria, the administration of lockdowns and other measures, the livelihood matters that have arisen in their wake and the impact on the economy in the coming weeks and months. What does the government think about them? What is it doing now, and what are the plans for tomorrow and the next day?

The Prime Minister has held meetings with chief ministers. He may have been talking to his ministers and secretaries. But in the most difficult and uncertain times of their lives, the people do not find the Prime Minister talking to them. Narendra Modi is nothing if not a master of words. He is not famous for conversations but has always been known to talk and communicate in ways that other politicians have envied him for. In a democracy, the leader should speak to the people when they need him, not when he needs them. If the retreat into silence is strategic, that is wrong. His speech is silver, but silence is not gold. No Prime Minister should go without words in a national crisis.

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Published 10 May 2021, 19:29 IST

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