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Wednesday, Oct 23, 2019

PM Modi diverts questions to Amit Shah at rare media briefing. He explains

Narendra Modi made his first appearance at a press briefing since he assumed office on May 26, 2014, spoke briefly about the just-ended election campaign and thanked the people for being with him through the ups and downs. But he answered no questions.

lok-sabha-elections Updated: May 18, 2019 08:16 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
New Delhi
In his first appearance at a press conference since he came to power in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted in opening remarks that the BJP will come back to power with a full majority on its own, but refused to take any questions, citing party discipline.
In his first appearance at a press conference since he came to power in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted in opening remarks that the BJP will come back to power with a full majority on its own, but refused to take any questions, citing party discipline.(Mohd Zakir/HT)
         

Journalists who were excited by what they thought would be their first interaction with the prime minister in five years were left sorely disappointed on Friday.

Narendra Modi made his first appearance at a press briefing since he assumed office on May 26, 2014, spoke briefly about the just-ended election campaign and thanked the people for being with him through the ups and downs. But he answered no questions, diverting them instead to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Amit Shah, whom he accompanied to the briefing

“I am a disciplined soldier. In our party, the president is everything,” Modi told the assembled reporters.

The 68-year-old prime minister hasn’t addressed a single press conference in the five years since he came to power, a record of sorts for an Indian leader, although he has given interviews to individual journalists and a “non-political” one to actor Akshay Kumar aired on a television channel. For a while, though, it seemed Modi would set that right. Rumours of a press conference with the Prime Minister started just about an hour before BJP party president Amit Shah was to have one at 3:45 pm.

The news was leaked to a photographers’ group and went viral immediately. When reporters called the Prime Minister’s campaign managers, they were told that it was possible, setting off an immediate media scramble.

A BJP leader said he had heard the PM was meeting “karyakartas” (functionaries) who were involved in the campaign. A thanksgiving ceremony to party workers at the end of the campaign, perhaps?. Could it be converted into an impromptu press conference? Reporting teams, outdoor broadcasting vans and television anchors who rarely step out of the studios made a beeline to the BJP headquarters on Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg,

All that was to no avail. The PM didn’t take a single question. In his remarks on Friday after waging a gruelling campaign, Modi said the elections would send back to office a government with a full majority that has been in power for five years -- a reference to the BJP. “This is probably happening after a very long time,” he said. He said the elections had been held in a positive spirit and thanked the people of India for the “love, respect and blessings” they had given him through the ups and downs of the past five years.

As questions from journalists followed, Shah answered them. When one reporter sought to put a supplementary question to Modi. Shah shot back saying he had already received the answer and the prime minister need not respond to queries on everything.

Soon after the media interaction was over, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, who held a parallel press conference, posted a sarcastic tweet. “Congratulations Modi Ji. Excellent Press Conference! Showing up is half the battle. Next time Mr Shah may even allow you to answer a couple of questions. Well done!” Gandhi tweeted.

At his own press conference, Gandhi was asked about the PM’s media event. “I think that’s very impressive, very good. The Prime Minister’s first press conference occurs 4-5 days before the results ...Well, I was told that PM is accompanying Amit Shah in his press briefing. This is an unprecedented event, the Prime Minister of India is doing a press conference for the first time.”

Gandhi posed a question to the PM he wanted an answer to-- why he hadn’t accepted his challenge to a debate the controversial Rafale deal? “Narendra Modi, you tell the press why you will not debate with me, why are you afraid of the Rafael matter?”

Unlike Shah, who predicted that the ruling dispensation was set to come back to power with more than 300 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha, Gandhi said he didn’t want to prejudge the people ahead of May 23 .

First Published: May 17, 2019 20:07 IST

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