The Prime Minister may not be in the habit of reading written texts. But were some of the questions and answers on September 4 prepared in advance?
New Delhi: Was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s seemingly impromptu interaction with students in the Capital on the eve of Teacher’s Day, in part, a scripted question and answer session?
During his 90-minute interaction on September 4, Modi took several questions from students and answered them in great detail. The Dainik Bhaskar reports [Hindi link] that some of these questions were not posed by students on the spur of the moment but had, in fact, been given to them well in advance by Ministry of Human Resource Development officials in consultation with the PMO.
“There was a pre-decided script. Bhaskar has been given this information by officers connected with the programme and students who had asked questions, as also their schools. Students were allowed to ask Modi about his dream projects, his attire and his habits,” the newspaper said, adding that some of Modi’s answers to these questions seemed aimed at his political opponents.
Preparations for the interaction began a month in advance. As per the newspaper’s sources, the students and the schools were selected by Irani herself and then a team of 15 people prepared the questions and showed these to the PMO and the HRD ministry.
After a green signal from the PMO, the questions were sent to the schools. Then the schools were asked to send details of the students shortlisted to ask these questions. According to the interest of the students, the questions were given to them. The students were then trained on what their ‘body language’ should be like when they were asking the questions.
The students were also directed to turn up properly for the event – with their hair combed well and their identity cards clearly displayed. The students were also trained on how they should patiently listen to the answer after they had posed their question. This was done to ensure that there were no odd moments, the newspaper reported.
The script was played out to perfection. Ironically, when he appeared before nearly 800 students at Manekshaw Auditorium, the newspaper said, Modi spoke on several issues on which he had been silent till now and seemed to take on the opposition while answering questions pertaining to his dress sense, the choice of June 21 for International Yoga Day and even his habit of not reading from a prepared text.
What went unnoticed to millions watching the programme live was that the question and answer round was itself a prepared one.
A look at the questions also reveals how they sought to portray Modi in a larger than life form. “Everybody likes your dressing sense. You are a brand ambassador. Modi kurta has become very popular. How did the idea of this dressing sense come to you,” asked one Delhi student, even though every word – according to Dainik Bhaskar – had been drafted by ministry officials.
Modi went along in all earnest. He replied, “There is a myth in the market. Modi does not have a fashion designer, still some fashion designers claim this. I left home at a very young age and roamed around for 30-40 years …. I used to wear a kurta pyjama and would wash it myself. An idea came to my mind, and I cut short its arms. Now if some fashion designer were to stake claim to the idea, what can I do. …… we should wear clothes as per the occasion. It has its own importance.”
No designer wear
According to Dainik Bhaskar, the question assumed significance because Modi is accused by his opponents of wearing expensive, stylish clothes. During US President Barack Obama’s visit, a major controversy arose when he wore a suit which had his name, Narendra Damodardas Modi, written all over it in the form of pin-stripes. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had claimed that Modi’s suit was made in Britain and was worth Rs 10 lakh. The suit was subsequently auctioned and bought by a Surat-based diamond merchant for Rs 4.31 crore. Modi used the interaction with students to insist that he does not wear designer labels.
On June 21 being declared International Yoga Day by the United Nations on India’s demand, Modi was asked by a student to how the idea of making the suggestion came to his mind.
Since June 21 is the death anniversary of Keshav Baliram Hegdewar, who had founded the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh in 1925, and the Congress has alleged that this day was chosen to honour the RSS founder, Modi used the question to answer his critics.
He said June 21 was chosen because “the sun is the source of energy and on June 21, India experiences its longest day (Summer Solstice) and so receives the maximum amount of solar energy. So, June 21 was suggested and it was adopted.”
‘Mastery on oratory’
There was another question – on written speeches – which Modi also used to target his opponents. When a student asked him, “you never deliver a written speech. How did you develop your mastery on oratory”, Modi spoke extensively. “Before speaking you should first listen well … you should develop the habit of making notes … refer to them when necessary .. bring sharpness in what you have to say … but I never did this. I do not keep a paper with me because when I do, it creates problems.”
The reference to “problems”, Dainik Bhaskar claimed, was a a jibe at Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. Rahul read from notes scribbled on a sheet of paper during the monsoon session of Parliament too and a photograph of his note – with Hindi sentences written in Roman text – went viral on social media. While BJP leaders had ridiculed him, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had even quipped that those who read from notes often repeat themselves, the newspaper wrote.
Modi may not be in the habit of reading written texts. But were some of the questions and answers on September 4 prepared in advance?
If some of the questions were planted by the MHRD as Dainik Bhaskar claims, others were not. A correspondent for the Prabhat Khabar in Patna – who spoke to the student from there who got to ask a question – noted that the student said he chose the question himself and that other than a ‘technical rehearsal’ had received no instructions.
Note: The story has been edited to add information from Patna in the last paragraph.