It was not a Sunday morning that many editors in the print and electronic media would have liked. For starters, there was to be a Narendra Modi speech, which meant these editors would have to be personally involved in ‘puncturing’ every word Modi said, mere correspondents would do not. Second, the speech was to an audience based in the USA and the biggest shocker was that it was at 6:30 in the morning! The thought of Modi ruining their Sunday morning was high on the mind of every TV channel when they began to cover his speech at the OFBJP programme.
First, the true figures that no media would bother to present. Modi’s interaction with NRI’s was a resounding success. They thronged both the venues at New Jersey and Chicago in large numbers. In fact, there was a severe space crunch to accommodate more people. Millions of people were glued to their TV screens across the US and Canada. Back home, the fact that the speech was on an early Sunday morning did not deter lakhs of netizens to follow it live. Even in the wee hours of Sunday, Twitter was abuzz with excitement over Modi’s speech.
Modi’s speech, by all standards, was path-breaking. Here was a leader who spoke about development and nation-building. No, the audience did not get to know whether his mother cried, or whether someone had told him power was poison or, for that matter, whether the sky was dark or clear at 4 am. Instead, they got to hear about the need to put India first. They were inspired when they heard about Modi’s mantra of One India, Excellent India (Ek Bharat, Sreshtha Bharat) and they went back to their homes assured that here is a man who will take their motherland forward come what may.
Understandably, the success of Modi’s speech in terms of both response and numbers created a Sunday morning headache for TV editors. Clearly, they had their job cut out for the day – demolish Modi’s speech whatever it takes. Their brief was clear – to engage in hair-splitting so that by the end of the day Modi’s speech would be trashed across drawing rooms. What followed was a shameful attempt to misrepresent and create a discourse built not on the strong foundation of facts but the weak premise of lies and personal prejudice.
The first thing the media picked on was Modi’s statement that if Governments made commendable efforts to serve the people, their mistakes would be overlooked. This statement, if viewed objectively, is 100 per cent true. The media, of course, thought otherwise. “People will ‘forgive’ a good Government’s mistake,” is how a headline was titled. Few missed the sarcasm in the tone. Here was Modi talking about the determination of his Government and humbly admitting that being human beings, it is possible some expectation would be left unmet. Yet, the same apologists who do not bat an eyelid before seeking elaborate apologies from Modi were up in arms. So were the non-apologists. Even in a discussion on Governance, the media asked if Modi was sidetracking 2002. Where 2002 came from is a million-dollar question. This ‘heads I win, tails you lose’ approach smacks of nothing but ignorance and misplaced arrogance.
The Congress’s opposition (which has spread on the media) to the statement on performance, mistakes and victory by Modi is understandable when you see that their own Governments win elections without performance, with many mistakes and without ever having to be humble about it and freely discussing the same. Never has Sheila Dikshit apologised for the corruption in Delhi, YSR’s exploits had the backing of 10 Janpath and the DF Government in Maharashtra has broken all records of inefficiency. Thus, ‘if without being humble we can win, why go the hard way?’ thinks the Congress.
Then, in his speech Modi described secularism as ‘India first’. For those editors who swear by an ideology that puts the family first and perhaps Italy second, these words came as hard punches. So they swung into action. “Modi going the Advani way, coining a new term ‘India first’ like Advani’s pseudo-secularism, and mixing nationalism with his agenda” is how a Congress-friendly journo who has authored a biography of the UPA chairperson put it. Some TV channels asked if Modi was changing track and adopting a more ‘tolerant line’!
The icing on the cake came when a Union Minister of State tweeted that Modi had copied ‘India first’ from his Twitter bio (doesn’t matter that he incorrectly wrote my ‘DP Profile’). The phrase ‘India first’ in the context of secularism is not new for Modi. In fact, he has used it back in 2011 and even before.
And finally, they had to drag in Wharton somewhere. A reputed news agency said Modi was addressing NRIs after the ‘Wharton snub’ and that is why he was presenting this softer image. The Indian media deserves the Man Booker Prize. This interaction between Modi and the OFBJP was planned months back. It was to have taken place on January 26 but had to be rescheduled. Where does Wharton come into this?