In one sense at least, the new PM will be a dramatic change from the old.
What an occasion to have a meltdown. In public. Before his party members. With the entire nation watching — or at least those who watched the telecast live in the morning or the repeat in the evening. There, inside Parliament’s august Central Hall, where journalist Kumar Ketkar (CNN-IBN) reminded us Jawaharlal Nehru had given his stirring speech on the eve of Independence. There, Narendra Modi choked.
He fought back the tears but not before they had sneaked into the speech he was delivering after the BJP MPs elected him their leader on Tuesday. He looked away so that no one would see him, believe it or not, lose control; he paused and paused, took a sip of water before humbly, hoarsely, thanking “maa”. The man who was all fire and brimstone during the election campaign, who seems to have iron in his soul (and the soles of his feet, considering how much walking he’s done in the last six months), had gone soft.
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India’s next prime minister is human, after all. Before this uncharacteristic breakdown, Modi had knelt with folded hands and then saluted the steps of Parliament with his forehead. He was the epitome of respect and reverence — nobody could have faulted his behaviour. Of course, it had elements of grandstanding and drama: Modi is a consummate performer, the great communicator. He knows how to use every public event to maximum effect. He loves public speaking, does so often knowing that in today’s world, silence is not golden. He is eloquent with an actor’s theatrical sense of the occasion. His timing and delivery are faultless. Notice that he speaks spontaneously without being prompted by typed-out notes.
This is vastly different from the last 10 years, when the three most important persons in the government and the ruling party — Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi — spoke so rarely and sparingly, you’d think words were their greatest foes.
Tuesday was Modi’s day entirely, with the media following him everywhere he went: Parliament, Rashtrapati Bhavan and then to Maninagar in the evening for another speech. For those who missed his morning’s speech, DD News thoughtfully replayed it at prime-time in the evening. After seeing very little of Modi on the public broadcaster thus far, we will now see a great deal of him in future. How things change — and remain the same.
When news TV could tear itself away from Modi, it devoted itself to forming his cabinet for him. This is an entertaining but entirely superfluous exercise, since he will be doing so himself by next Monday. That hasn’t stopped the channels from idle speculation. Times Now fielded its usual enormous panel of journalists and experts. As the names of prospective candidates for cabinet berths appeared before them, they airily allocated portfolios, debated them, agreed to disagree and generally looked very pleased with their choices. India TV with Rajat Sharma traveled across India, coming up with possible ministers and giving us brief profiles of each choice. IBN-7, Headlines Today also enjoyed themselves playing the guessing game.
By the way, one person who clearly did not enjoy himself was Rahul Gandhi at Monday’s CWC meeting. At least in the footage we saw on TV, he looked rather grim — contrast this with the grin on his face last Friday when he spoke to the media (a few sentences only) on the Congress debacle.
India News was also very serious. That’s because it was tackling an extremely grave situation. It had just received news that Pakistan was quaking. “Modi ka dar — kaise kaanp raha hai Pakistan”, it reported after listening in on a Pakistani news channel’s debate on Modi’s electoral victory where, according to India News, the participants were shivering with fear.
Away from politics, you can savour a new season of Masterchef Australia (Star Premiere HD). For those of you who are parochial, there was at least one contestant with an Indian background: Dipavli. Alas, she wasn’t doing too well, last seen. As of now, many of the dishes look as delectable as always and some just a mess. Eggs with eggplant and other vegetables in a pan don’t make you want to reach out and grab some, that’s for sure.