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Vijaya Pushkarna
Vijaya Pushkarna


Political monologues

mayawati-pti BSP supremo Mayawati during a press conference in New Delhi | PTI

A few days ago, the Bahujan Samajwadi Party supremo and Rajya Sabha member Mayawati held a hurried press conference, largely to say that the Modi government is no different from the Congress government when it comes to misusing the CBI (read, using to take on political adversaries). She received a call from the premier agency the previous evening. They wanted to interrogate her in connection with corruption in the Taj corridor case, the National Rural Health Mission case and a disproportionate assets case against her. She had been given a clean chit by the apex court in all the three cases, she said, sure that the Modi government was attempting to demoralise her ahead of the Uttar Pradesh elections in 2017.

An array of TV cameramen with their reporters, as well as reporters and photographers of all the print media in the national capital thronged the huge hall in her Thyagaraja Marg official residence—complete with an ever so high gate, so tightly sealed that fresh air can't blow in, almost unimaginable in airy Lutyens Bungalow Zone. She entered like an actor on stage would. She read out her six or seven pages on the CBI and said she was ready to take questions. Someone did ask her one. Before answering, she said she had forgotten to say something else. It was on reservation, in the context of the RSS chief's suggestions to the government, and again five or six pages. Having read the last page, she got up and exited the way she had entered. No questions, no answers.

About a month ago, reporters on the defence beat were invited to a press conference by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on the very topical subject of One Rank One Pension. They thronged 129 D, South Block—the defence ministry's conference hall. They are not complaining that the minister refused to take questions. When they were invited, it was made clear the minister will not answer questions!

There are many like Mayawati and Parrikar. Politicians talking of transparency don't remember that a large part of it flows in the course of a question and answer session, an interaction with the media. Which is why they are called the Fourth Pillar of democracy in India.

On October 25, 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had invited all the media representatives covering both the BJP and the government, as well as editors of some publications, for a breakfast meeting. It was slated to be his effort at breaking the ice with the media that complained he was not talking. The breakfast happened. The meeting was informal and not the kind journalists look forward to. Over scores of selfies and a very personal, "Hi, hello, how are you?" to each journalist and photographer. Modi said he recognised warm conversations with some of the old timers, regretting he could not do that now, but would definitely make it a point to meet regularly and answer their questions. But that day, there was not a sentence that the nation may have wanted to know, straight out of the PM's mouth!

Almost a year, and there is no sign that the promised meeting over questions and answers will happen. We hear from the PM and the PMO, almost breath by breath, by way of press notes on the web, tweets and Facebook posts. Conversation is selective and clearly flows in one direction—from the PM!

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