Like a humble but credulous poet in the court of a self-centered king, Prasoon Joshi and Narendra Modi made a disingenuous attempt on Thursday to resurrect the ‘Modi magic’ at the Central Hall in Westminster, London. It had every bit of that farcical grandeur that Modi has been crafting beautifully since the very beginning of his campaign for the 2014 election, that also led to BJP’s historic win.
Not only did this interaction remind us of those few good months that BJP enjoyed just as they began their reign, it also took us back to those times when the poet laureate and the king would sit and talk in solace, for it was the poet’s mission to compose the most authentic prose describing his Lord’s accomplishments and hardships.
Modi narrated his wails of growing in poverty in response to Joshi’s cathartic questions as a brilliant interlocutor amidst a well-taught audience. This, as Modi thought, should have supposedly blunt the opposition’s ‘Maun Modi’ jibe, giving everybody a clear impression how our PM can talk open heartedly in an ‘unscripted interview’, be it in another country when his own is in turmoil, and that too with a poet of all and not a journalist.
These interactive shows were Modi’s domain, in which he very interestingly indulged during the 2014 elections. This is how he began his ‘Mann ki Baat’ after all. However, here it looks that he borrowed a page from Putin’s life and tried to pull off one of his setup two-hour shows that take place every year in Russia. With questions screened in advance, a selected Putin-zealot audience assembles in a hall to discuss with Russia’s president everything from marriage therapy to adopting a pet. No wonder the two leaders get along so well!
At the event ‘Bharat Ki Baat, Sab Ke Saath’, Censor board chief Prasoon Joshi welcomed the PM amidst a seemingly pliant diaspora crowd that erupted in applause when Modi entered the stage. Joshi began by mentioning the latter’s journey from ‘a railway station to the Royal Palace’. Modi, who described himself as a sevak (servant), and went on to ‘discuss’ a wide range of issues from terrorism in Pakistan to sexual violence in India.
The sheer panegyric nature of these questions and the absence of cross-questioning or any research back up were enough to expose how BJP is trying a little too hard to fill the gaps in a sinking ship as it limps to the end of its term.
Composer of the slogan ‘Achhe Din’, Joshi composed some similar amusing questions for the ‘Modi durbar’. Take this as a small example of Prasoon Joshi’s question.
‘Modi ji, do you ever become impatient? It must be frustrating sometimes that things are not running by the speed of a bullet train according to you.”
Hailing the question, Modi says, “I did not know that a journalist is sitting within the poet too.” Joshi blushed, Modi laughed half-smirking, and it was a lovely affair. Our PM’s reply, nonetheless, makes one wonder if he was unprepared for a journalist’s question, and rather came to address his court with a poet to create laudable tales later.
Now, taking a dig at these ‘political interviews’ being scripted or not, by some BJP leaders especially, defeats the purpose of itself seeing how brilliantly they have been propagating saffronisation. However, rendering that the people of your country will be unable to unveil this these facade everytime is living either ignorance or arrogance.
The question it puts up were summarised in this tweet by a lawyer, “I don’t have a problem if your show is scripted or not. Problem is with your dishonesty of planting questions, vetting audience, repeating questions & putting up a farce of an unscripted event. If you lie to 1.2 billion ppl about your PR events imagine other lies u are spinning.”
When thinking of the past, BJP should also consider those days when Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi used to sit and have real discourses and those are the kind of poet-social servant interactions we should look forward to rather than the facade BJP constructs.
However, neither is Joshi Tagore nor is Modi anywhere close to Mahatma Gandhi. However, what we can expect at least is a similar interaction with the PM in his own country with the press where he is subjected to some ‘real’ questions.