One more of the Modi monologues

Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks during an election campaign rally for the SAD-BJP alliance ahead of Lok Sabha 2019 elections at the PUDA ground, in Gurdaspur. PTI

With a rare interview on New Year day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tried to give a positive account of his government and its performance in the last four and a half years and to prepare his political pitch for the coming Lok Sabha elections. He covered a range of issues, most of which are bound to figure in the discussions before and during the campaign for the elections. He was his usual combative political self, was rhetorical on some issues and evasive on others, and on many issues his explanations and defences were unconvincing. The interviewer did not have the chance to probe the prime minister closely, as it happens in media conferences. Modi has avoided them, and so his interviews become monologues on matters that he wants to talk about. That happened with this interview, too. 

The highlight of the interview was the prime minister keeping the government’s options open on the Ayodhya issue after the Supreme Court delivers its judgement on it. He did not state that the government would accept the court’s decision if it went against the BJP’s position, and did not rule out the issuance of an ordinance. He expressed unhappiness over the delay in the judicial process, and though he blamed the Congress lawyers for it, the criticism may have been meant for the court. The government and the BJP have wanted the court’s decision before the elections. The prime minister’s statement may be an indication that the government would not refrain from issuing an ordinance if the court did not decide the case to suit the BJP. Vagueness and dog-whistle politics on such issues is wrong. As the head of government, he should have categorically declared that the court’s decision would be implemented, whatever it is. 

The prime minister was right to state that loan waivers would not solve the farmers’ problems. But while he said this to criticise Congress, he himself came to power promising he would declare loan waiver on his very first day in office; again, during the UP assembly polls in 2017, he promised a farm loan waiver for the state, which was implemented later. He also pushed other BJP-ruled states to do so. On cow-related killings, he said they had taken place before 2014 also, but ignored the fact that most of them happened after that and in BJP-ruled states. The prime minister did not mention his unkept and failed promises. His defence of demonetisation and implementation of GST was not convincing, and the positions on triple talaq, changes in the CBI and on the resignation of Urjit Patel did not sound true, nor were they complete explanations. The prime minister defined many of the themes of his campaign, but he was far from impressive. 

 

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One more of the Modi monologues

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