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Selfies with reporters, but no questions please: Modi mingles with media

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The Telegraph Online   |   Published 25.10.14, 12:00 AM

NEW DELHI, Oct. 25 (Agencies): Prime Minister Narendra Modi took tea, but no questions, on Saturday at his first staged meeting with the Indian press since coming to power five months ago, underscoring the delicate relationship he has with the fourth estate.

Modi said he wanted to strengthen ties with journalists and thanked them for reporting on a 'Clean India' campaign he launched recently by taking a broom to a rubbish-strewn street in New Delhi.

“The prime minister cannot pick up the broom alone,” Modi told invited journalists in New Delhi. “You have turned your pen into a broom, and I think this is a huge service.”

Using the Diwali get-together organised by Bharatiya Janata Party chief Amit Shah at the party headquarters, Modi freely mixed with a few hundred journalists, including top editors and beat reporters.

He recalled his fond relations with the media when he was a BJP office-bearer before going to Gujarat as Chief Minister in 2001.

“I used to arrange chairs here (BJP office) waiting for you (media). Those were different days when we used to interact freely. I had a beautiful relationship with you and it helped me in Gujarat,” he told the assembled editors, reporters and other journalists.

As prime minister, Modi has made extensive use of campaign speeches, glitzy policy launches and social media to propagate his message - he has 7.3 million followers on Twitter.

But his government has been criticised by commentators for being unwilling to face challenging questions. Five months after Modi took power, the prime minister's office still has no official spokesperson.

After his short statement, Modi dived into the crowd at BJP office. Some journalists snapped 'selfie' photographs with him on their smartphones.

“Today we were seeing a different Modi,” Bhupendra Chaubey, executive editor of CNN IBN news, said from the ice-breaker event. “He's trying to make a personal connect with the journalists here.”

Modi said he was looking for ways to further deepen and expand the old relationship.

“Some way will be found. It is important to interact with media directly rather than the reportage and articles. By interacting directly, one gets to know things that media persons cannot report. Not only does one get information but also vision, which is very valuable,” he said.

Referring to the 'Swachh Bharat' campaign launched by him, Modi said he was happy to see several articles, TV features and social media write-ups on the subject, giving the mission a wide publicity.

He said this is an issue that affects the image of the country and impacts the poorest most.

”More important than health care is preventive health care and cleanliness plays a crucial role in this,” he said, adding that it is a national duty to raise awareness about the issue.

Noting that all including influential people are getting involved in the 'Swachh Bharat' campaign, he said the notion that government has to do everything has changed.

“For the last 60 years, the thinking was that government has to do everything. Now the thinking is that we all have to work together. This demonstrates how big a role media can play,” Modi said.

Media has inspired people to take part in cleanliness exercise, he said.

Earlier, Shah said the central government is doing a good job after people have reposed faith in Modi's leadership. He hoped that it would rise to the expectations of the people.

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