Will the real Modi please stand up?

He is moderate in TV Q&As, all fire and brimstone in campaign speeches.

Written by Shailaja Bajpai | Updated: May 9, 2014 12:05 pm

He is moderate in TV Q&As, all fire and brimstone in campaign speeches.

It was the unkindest cut of all. Narendra Modi was going out of his way to be conciliatory towards Priyanka Gandhi: “A daughter is after all a daughter, if she does not work for her mother, whom will she do it for? …If she hurls 10 more curses, then too a daughter is a daughter and as a daughter, whatever she does, I won’t be angry at her.” How’s that for magnanimity? Not as endearing as “she’s like my daughter”, which was incorrectly put out by the media first, but still, it suggested he had a big heart inside that 56-inch chest.

And what does Doordarshan do? It snips out Modi’s comments on Priyanka as well as on Sonia Gandhi’s political aide, Ahmed Patel, who, Modi claimed in the same DD News interview, had been a good friend. Modi released a copy of the recorded interview, embarrassing DD, which claimed it edited the interview for “technical reasons”. Now where have we heard that before? Perchance when Lok Sabha TV blacked out the Lok Sabha vote on the Telangana Bill? We didn’t believe it then and nobody believes it now, not even the CEO of Prasar Bharati, Jawhar Sircar, who used the controversy over the edited interview to demand real autonomy for the public service broadcaster. \

During the DD interview, Modi was at his affable best — relaxed, reassuring, almost gentle in his remarks as he and the interviewer, Ashok Shrivastav, strolled around the garden. This is one of many TV interviews you can now watch with Modi. Yes, there’s a veritable Modi wave on TV as we head into the last lap of the campaign.

If it’s Monday, it has to be Modi with Deepak Chaurasia on India TV, or then with Samay TV. If it’s Tuesday, it must be Modi on News Nation. Indeed, Modi has appeared in Q&A sessions on all the major Hindi TV news channels. In each session, he has spoken like a prime minister-in-waiting with measured, moderate replies to questions on everything from communal politics, his political opponents, Pakistan or Kashmir.\

This is in sharp contrast to his election campaign speeches of the same period, which are all fire and brimstone. Notice the shift in gears from TV interviews to campaign speeches, from campaign speeches of early April to campaign speeches in early May. Earlier on the campaign trail, Modi emphasised his development agenda, the Gujarat model and the UPA’s economic failures. Now he’s making an all-out frontal attack on the Gandhi family in UP, where they are candidates.

Contrast these: on DD, he was indulgent of “daughter” Priyanka; in his televised campaign speech in Amethi, he attacked her: “Look at the arrogance of the Congress. One of their leaders (Priyanka) says ‘Who is Smriti Irani?’ When arrogance reaches its zenith, people lose basic courtesy. I’ll tell them who Smriti Irani is. She is my younger sister… and she is here to wash away your sins.”

The razor-sharp exchanges between Modi and Priyanka over the last few weeks, highlighted by TV news, have personalised and heightened a campaign that was earlier more general in content and tone. By Tuesday, it had come down to Priyanka’s accusation of Modi’s “neech rajneeti” and Modi’s replying that she was casting aspersions on his “neech” background.

Watching Modi on TV has been instructive of how politics is played: he switches from being the politician during the campaign to the prime ministerial candidate in his TV interactions.

In between their election express adventure, Headlines Today found space on Tuesday to telecast tapes in which Imtiaz and Tabish, two Indian Mujahideen operatives, “admit” that the Patna blast in October 2013 had targeted Modi. Will this revelatory tape have any bearing on the voting in the last two phases of the polls?

NewsX managed to ignore the election campaign long enough to look at the Supreme Court judgment striking down a Karnataka government decision to have Kannada as the medium of instruction in all primary schools. What a relief to hear experts on subjects other than Modi and Priyanka.

Last, everyone predicted not just a Modi victory but that the cheerleaders at the IPL would shed some clothes once they returned to India. Now they’re attired in hot pants and skimpy tops. Can’t blame them in these heated times.


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