One of the most tangible factors that gauge the success of Narendra Modi’s interview in ‘Frankly Speaking’ is the Indian stock market, which on May 9 jumped to a whopping 6898 points – the highest in 31 months. Stock market Pundits are giving credit for this record jump to the confidence expressed by BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate to form a “strong and most stable government since Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure” in an interview with Times Now’s Arnab Goswami last week.
The record breaking impressions of a whopping 17 crore Twitter impressions of this interview resonated the mood of a calm and poised Modi in front of undoubtedly India’s harshest TV anchor, Goswami, who praised the politician as a “picture of complete confidence” later in a separate interview. This confidence can also be credited to the fact that this particular interaction was latest in the line of interviews Modi has been giving to TV channels and agencies (India TV, ANI, ABP News, CNBC Awaaz, DD, etc.) and sees a more evolved and poised speaker. The interview did not have the trademark Arnab fireworks, but taking into account its plain content, questions and answers were pertinent and clearly fact-based.
The interview reminds one of an exciting tennis game of top players, wherein each side plays a strong offensive and defence. Clearly, it was a ‘Modi-Day’, where he emerged as a player who was strong on his offensive and assured in his defence. He stood up to the challenge of Arnab’s piercing questions and garnered respect from viewers as a probable Prime Minister of India who can speak, take action and is able to communicate at many levels – from using traditional rallying to state-of-the-art digital campaigning with 3D holographic techniques. People of India need assurance and this interviewwent a long way to achieve this.
Modi, as a seasoned politician, answered with panache and propriety, supporting with statistics and figures to complement each idea as well as playing with the tonality from being vociferous (“I am shocked at how Times Now is so insistent on protecting a particular family”), yet balancing with appropriate courtesies (“I would like to say that your name will go into history books, from your first interview to your last. Times Now has got that credit”).
Coming to the contents of the interview, the questions, well prepared and researched, were asked to address the general public sentiment of Modi’s alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots, internal politics and his stance on foreign policy vis-à-vis Pakistan or the US. However, there are doubts about the issues that were raised. At a time when eight phases of elections are completed and results about to be announced within a week, the pertinence of such issues is debatable. Without discounting the relevance of Gujarat riots and human rights violations India Inc wanted to hear more in terms of what next? The viewers of Times Now are urban, upwardly mobile, English-speaking and are concerned with the staggering Indian economy and see Modi as a ‘saviour’ of sorts. Concerns of the viewers of this channel could have been given more ‘Prime Time’ space: Monetary policy, employment, industry, development issues such as infrastructure, FDI, economic reforms and corruption, were not appropriately highlighted.
Only at one point, the need for development of cities like Patna, Ranchi, Kolkata, Guwahati and Bhubaneshwar was mentioned. At a time when India staggers with a below 7 per cent growth rate, foreign investments suffering a major setback, the infrastructure sector finding itself in a dilapidated state, it is indeed the need of time to move on from petty politics and work towards the growth of the nation as a whole. Here also, Modi did manage to impress upon the fact that he was evolving from a state’s chief minister into a national level leader when he used the example of Bengal and addressed it in first person – “My Bengal is getting destroyed and I am hurt because of this”.
The volatile Indian election scenario, for the first time, is experiencing personality based campaigning in every party, with BJP banking on the popularity of a single leader like Modi. However, it was heartwarming to see him give credit to teamwork and running the nation by “taking everyone together” – something that will boost an immense amount of confidence amongst his supporters.
Dinkar Marla is FCA Consultant in M&A and Taxation, and Director with Businessworld.