The BJP must internalise Narendra Modi’s message | editorials | Hindustan Times
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The BJP must internalise Narendra Modi’s message

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s leaders must behave responsibly and it must recognise that a free media is central to democracy and allow it to do its job

editorials Updated: Apr 24, 2018 18:08 IST
Narendra Modi,BJP,Freedom of speech
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that there is a tendency in the party to blame the media. But it is time to introspect if the leaders, with their own statements, on various issues, speak unnecessarily and thus end up giving fodder to the media. (AFP)

On Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi interacted with MPs and MLAs of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Besides speaking of the government’s achievements, he delivered a pointed and much-needed message to his party leaders. Laying out the context, Mr Modi said that there was a tendency in the party to blame the media. But it was time to introspect if the leaders, with their own statements, on various issues, spoke unnecessarily and thus ended up giving fodder to the media. This, he said, had harmed the party, the nation, and the respective individuals concerned. Modi linked it to the desire of some to appear on television news and to instantly offer views. And he said, bluntly, that it was time for leaders to exercise restraint in speech and stop blaming the media. Those who were authorised in the party to speak on an issue would do so; there was no need for the others to chip in and distract the debate.

Mr Modi’s message is of great value at two levels. For one, the context is not hard to miss. The ruling party, ever since it has come to power in 2014, has suffered repeated embarrassment. Some ministers have made unscientific claims and some legislators have made statements which can only deepen prejudice and stoke hatred in society. As elected representatives, exercising power, and being in a position to shape opinion and policy, MPs and MLAs cannot and must not speak recklessly. One can make a case that statements which encourage resentment and hatred against other communities play a role in ideological indoctrination and eventually lead to violence. This is particularly true in a complex and diverse society like India. Two, there appears to be deep suspicion — bordering on hostility — that a section of the BJP base seems to have for the media. An adversarial relationship between those in power and the media is a good sign, but this sense of hostility has often resulted in party leaders or supporters encouraging organised campaigns against media outlets and representatives. This goes against the idea of freedom of speech, and tolerance for a differing viewpoint. The BJP must internalise Mr Modi’s message. Its leaders must behave responsibly. The party must recognise that a free media is central to democracy and allow it to do its job.

First Published: Apr 24, 2018 18:08 IST