PM Narendra Modi, a silent film

Modi plays second fiddle to BJP president Amit Shah

  • Published 18.05.19, 5:30 AM
  • Updated 18.05.19, 5:30 AM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
Modi at the news conference on Friday Image source: (@BJPLive)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday finally picked up the gauntlet that had been repeatedly thrown at him by Congress president Rahul Gandhi and addressed a media conference — his first in five years — but did not field a single question, opting to play second fiddle to BJP president Amit Shah.

In a move that grabbed countrywide media attention and stole live coverage from Rahul’s news conference, Modi turned up at the BJP headquarters in the afternoon for a media briefing that was initially supposed to be addressed by Shah.

The 53-minute interface saw the Prime Minister speak in the middle for a little over 12 minutes, and then duck a question, passing it on to Shah.

When a question was directly put to Modi in view of his statement earlier in the day on BJP candidate Pragya Singh Thakur calling Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse a “patriot”, Modi said: “Hum toh disciplined soldier hain. Adhyaksh hamare liye sab kuch hota hai (I am a disciplined soldier. The party president is everything for us.)”

This said, Modi sat through the remaining 18 minutes of the media conference doing pretty much what he had done in the earlier part — staring broodingly in front.

In his 12-minute monologue, the Prime Minister tried to lighten up the meeting with an attempt at familiarity with some of the senior reporters present, remembering his earlier days as a party worker when he would share tea with journalists regularly.

He dwelt on the scale of the Indian democracy, urging the media to tell the world about its vibrancy.

Even in that he took a dig at the Opposition — recalling how in 2009 and 2014 IPL matches had to be taken outside the country to accommodate elections — while an efficient government managed to have them along with festivals and exams this time.

Modi also stressed the nature of his own mandate in 2014 — billing it as a truly democratic one — and called his 2019 election campaign in which he addressed 142 meetings an opportunity to thank the people and seek blessings anew.

About his governance, he said the hallmark was the focus on “last-mile delivery”, a phrase that could well be used for his media conference just an hour before the close of campaign for the 17th general election. But, within minutes, that delivery lost both spin and force when it became evident that Modi had no intention of taking questions.

The ball then spun back at the Prime Minister with social media exploding with ridicule.

The session was likened to the fabled “achchhe din” and was promptly renamed a “press appearance” and a “jumla”, a word ironically popularised by his comrade-in-arms Shah when he referred to Modi’s 2014 election promise of Rs 15 lakh in every account as election-time rhetoric.

The press conference that left the nation speechless after a wait of 1,817 days. Below are highlights of the press conference where Narendra Modi appeared on Friday afternoon, his first since he took oath as PM on May 26, 2014

36th minute: It’s question time after statements by Amit Shah and Modi
36th minute: It’s question time after statements by Amit Shah and Modi Image source: (@BJPLive)
37th minute: Shah answers, Modi surveys the room
37th minute: Shah answers, Modi surveys the room Image source: (@BJPLive)
41st minute: Asked a question, Modi gestures towards Shah and says: “I am a disciplined soldier. The party president is everything for us.”
41st minute: Asked a question, Modi gestures towards Shah and says: “I am a disciplined soldier. The party president is everything for us.” Image source: (@BJPLive)
44th minute: Shah answers, Modi takes in more sights
44th minute: Shah answers, Modi takes in more sights Image source: (@BJPLive)
45th minute: Modi again gestures, Shah answers
45th minute: Modi again gestures, Shah answers Image source: (@BJPLive)
47th minute: Shah answers, Modi ponders
47th minute: Shah answers, Modi ponders Image source: (@BJPLive)
51st minute: Shah answers, Modi in deep contemplation
51st minute: Shah answers, Modi in deep contemplation Image source: (@BJPLive)