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#PollVault: Amid Election Fervour, an Unusual Interview of PM Modi

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New Delhi: Amid election heat, the nation woke up to an unusual interview of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday. Viewers learnt that the Indian prime minister loves mangoes but as a child, he did not have the money to buy them, and that he uses castor oil to keep his skin glowing. We also now know that the prime minister avoids allopathic treatment, drinks warm water and drops a little mustard oil to keep off a cold – a reflection of the tough life he has led.  

Actor Akshay Kumar, who probably is recovering from binge-acting in nationalist dramas, described his chat with the prime minister as a “candid and completely non-political interview”. So having been gifted yet another chance to showcase his minimalistic lifestyle – something that has always been a focus of his political campaign – Modi walked through the talk with a flourish.

He reminded his audience that only a couple of years ago, he did the 1000-kilometre long Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. He also put opposition leader Mamata Banerjee in a spot when he said she sends him a few kurtas and Bengali sweets every year as a friendly gesture. And then he cracked a joke on samajwadis or socialists, describing them as ones who lead a dual life.

We also got a few anger management lessons from him. Modi takes to writing when he is filled with rage.

Civil society’s response

Twitter, of course, exploded in both fury and mirth.

The opposition leaders reminded the public yet again that Modi has not addressed a single open press conference in five years and that is undoubtedly a distinction from those who preceded him at the Prime Minister’s Office. Opposition parties have often criticised the prime minister for doing only “scripted” interviews – in which his office vets questions from media houses.

Prime minister’s press conference that didn’t happen

As #AkshaywithModi was gradually losing its steam, several news channels “broke” the story that the prime minister was finally going to address his first press conference in Varanasi on April 26. This was surely something that journalists would have looked forward to.

However, the Bharatiya Janata Party soon came on record to say that the prime minister had no such plan.

The Congress, soon, seized the opportunity to mock the prime minister. “Tum se na ho payega (You are incapable of doing that).”

Meanwhile, the Congress president took a dig at Modi, alleging that he protected interests of only 15 industrialists while leaving the farmers, unemployed, and the poor to fetch on their own.

On the electoral side

Meanwhile, Dalit leader Udit Raj quit the BJP after being denied a ticket to contest from Delhi’s North-West seat, and joined Congress. He said he was denied a ticket because he chose to support the Dalits in their protest against the dilution of SC/ST Prevention of Atrocity Act and implementation of 13-point roster system for recruitment of faculty members last year.

The BJP uses internal survey to choose its candidates and even though I was deemed most popular, I was refused a ticket because I had supported Dalits in their recent protests,” Raj alleged.

He added, “If at all they want a Dalit leader, he should be silent.” He said that he will not remain silent and help the opposition snatch at least “10-15 seats” from the BJP.

Meanwhile, BJP roped in actor Sunny Deol to contest from Gurdaspur, Punjab and re-nominated Kirron Kher, another actor, to contest from Chandigarh.

Deol had earlier joined the saffron party in the presence of defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman and railway minister Piyush Goyal.

Sitharaman invoked Border, a military drama that was a super hit in the 1990s, and indicated that the party hopes to cash in on the actor’s patriotic image to win the tight seat.

Meanwhile, as the prime minister embarks on a two-day visit to Varanasi to file his nomination from the constituency, suspense over whether Congress’s Priyanka Gandhi will take on Modi or not continues.

In a reply to a journalist, Priyanka said, “You will soon find out (whether she will contest from Varanasi or not).” She had earlier said that if the Congress president and her brother Rahul Gandhi wanted her to fight from Varanasi, she would readily do it.

Party sources indicated that a decision on this front will be taken soon.

Follow The Wire’s complete coverage of the 2019 elections here.

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