Modi meets the media, doesn’t answer questions - GulfToday

Modi meets the media, doesn’t answer questions


Narendra Modi listens as Amit Shah addresses a press conference at the party headquarters in New Delhi. Associated Press

Resmi Sivaram / Agencies

A silent prime minister was the highlight of a media interaction in the national capital on Friday. Narendra Modi did not take a single question as he appeared with BJP chief Amit Shah to claim that the party is poised for a clean sweep of the Lok Sabha seats.

This was the first media conference that Modi faced in his five years in power. He called himself a “disciplined soldier” of the party and passed on to Shah, questions addressed to him. “No, no, not me. We don’t speak in front of the president,” Modi said.

However, he did speak to claim that he would return with full majority after the election.

“It has not happened often in our country that a government with full majority returns once again with a majority,” he said.

Shah echoed similar views and said the BJP government will return to power with a bigger mandate and added they are confident of securing more than 300 seats. He further said the Modi-led government has launched a total of 133 schemes to uplift all sections of society.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi mocked Modi. “Very good, very good. So the prime minister of India addresses his first press conference in the last few days of his term... just before the results of the next election is due.

“PM Modi is “accompanying” Amit Shah in a press conference, which is an unprecedented event for him. Let me ask him a question right now — Mr PM, why did you not accept my challenge to debate on corruption in Rafale? “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,” tweeted Rahul Gandhi.

Escalating his attack on Modi, he said: “We closed 90 per cent doors for Narendra Modi; he closed 10 per cent for himself by abusing opponents.” Modi has been repeatedly criticised by Rahul Gandhi and other opposition leaders for not addressing a single press conference since he took the top job.

Modi recalled his 2014 sweep. “On May 16 the results came out. And in May 17 there was a big casualty. Those who were power-hungry and those into betting suffered a biggest loss.” Shah said firmly: “I have answered your question. It is not necessary for the PM to answer every question.” Asked about Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhara Rao’s meetings to evolve a federal front, Shah said: “See, we are completely sure that we are going to win. These people don’t have any work on the campaign trail so they are meeting in drawing rooms.” Rahul Gandhi held a press conference around the same time — also after wrapping up his campaign which made for the rare sight of a split screen on TV channels, with the top leaders of the two main parties speaking to the media.

Modi, who is seeking re-election for a second term in polls that conclude on Sunday, has often used the success of Swachh Bharat in campaigning. “We got more than 100 million toilets built,” he said at a rally in north India on Sunday.

Swachh Bharat, a multi-billion-dollar programme backed by money from the government and a World Bank loan, has indeed built millions of latrines, but critics say official statistics paint an overly optimistic picture of its success. “The whole point of this is for people’s health,” said Payal Hathi, a researcher consulted on the World Bank-backed survey.

“It’s unfortunate that the data is so misleading.” Data from the World Bank-supported National Annual Rural Sanitation Survey (NARSS) that concluded in February shows that only about 10% of rural Indians defecate in the open. The survey was conducted using funds from a $1.5 billion World Bank loan for Swachh Bharat.

A separate study conducted over a similar timeline by the non-profit Research Institute for Compassionate Economics (RICE), where Hathi was a researcher, shows 44% of the rural population across four large states still defecate in the open.

The ministry said: “RICE has been repeatedly attempting to undermine the achievements of the Swachh Bharat Mission.” It said RICE has a history of “biased, motivated and untruthful” reporting.

RICE was not immediately reachable for further comment.

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