In the past few months, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been criticised for his silence over various important national and international issues. Modi finally broke his silence in an interview to Times Now's Arnab Goswami.
Even though he was sitting inside a studio, he seemed to be firmly in campaign mode. Modi knows it very well that the best way to respond to questions about his "underachievement" is to drown the questions by marketing his achievements.
What Modi spoke was on predictable lines. In the 90-minute long interview, he held forth on his achievements on the development and foreign policy front. Almost like his Mann ki Baat radio programme, Modi asked questions and answered them himself.
Therefore, the question is, what was Arnab Goswami doing?
The same anchor, who can even grill tables, chairs and walls if he is alone in the studio, failed to pose any tough questions to the prime minister. The entire interview seemed to be a PR exercise, a promotional video of Modi Sarkar. Rather than put Modi on the backfoot, Goswami was keen on showcase the fact that this was his first interview as PM.
Modi on his part, tried to amplify the viewership of the programme with this tweet.
The nation wants to know why Arnab failed to ask Modi some of these questions.
Tolerance of intolerance
Why didn't Modi say anything to stop the hate speech by leaders of his own party? Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti got away with her "Ramzaade versus Haraamzaade" remark. Mahesh Sharma remains a minister despite his "despite being a Muslim..." comment about former President APJ Abdul Kalam.
But remarks are just one part of the story. Mohammad Akhlaq was lynched to death in Dadri for allegedly having beef in his fridge. Dalit children were set on fire in BJP-ruled Haryana and another BJP minister VK Singh compared them to dogs. A Dalit scholar, Rohith Vemula, was driven to suicide in Hyderabad Central University. But PM Modi remained completely silent through all this. And Goswami didn't care to ask about any of these events.
The economy is in a mess. The government's figure of 7.6% GDP growth has been questioned by many experts. Job creation hasn't taken off the way Modi had promised. The rupee is falling and inflation is at an all time high.
But Goswami let all of this pass. In fact, he tried to suggest answers within his questions. The challenges Indian economy is facing were left unattended and Arnab didn't bother to ask the PM about what he plans to do to tackle them.
Modi came to power riding on the promises he made to the electorate - be it the promise of bringing back black money, punishing corrupt politicians, addressing farmers' grievances or providing 10 crore jobs in five years.
Except for a soft question on black money and another one on the policy towards Pakistan, Goswami made no effort to bring the PM to account on the promises he had made.
Due to the arrogance of the BJP and the government, there is no consensus over key policy issues in Parliament. Centralised governance has created various bottlenecks. There is a perception that the PMO bypasses its own ministers and works through bureaucrats. The bureaucrats, in turn, are facing flak from MPs.
Flagship programs like Make in India, Digital India, Start Up India and many others are unable to do well so far. On the other side, schemes like PDS, MNREGA are suffering. Funds for education and health have been reduced. All the government has been showcasing is programmes like Jan Dhan Yojna and Fasal Bima Yojna.
Goswami failed to ask any question pertaining to these issues.
The real agenda
The primary front in which the government has been successful is the RSS agenda of saffronising education and institutions. From the promotion of yoga and Sanskrit, to appointments in key positions, the RSS has had its way in the educational and cultural spheres. On the other hand funds for higher education and scientific research have been cut. There is more focus on banning beef instead of ensuring food security for all.
But Goswami didn't deem these questions important enough to put before the Prime Minister.
One understands Goswami's predicament. He must have felt privileged to get Modi's first interview as PM. But he would do well to stop claiming to be the "nation's voice" the next time he holds forth on national television.
The only endearing part of the interview was to hear Goswami speak many decibels lower than what we are used to. In terms of volume, his questions were music to the audience's ears. In tone and tenor, they must have been music to the PM's.
Edited by Aditya Menon
The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the organisation.