Has the Lotus finally bloomed?
Senior journalist Rahul Tewari remarks on how Narendra Modi outshined Arnab skillfully with his confidence and sharpness
The BharatiyaJanata Party’s (BJP) prime ministerial hopeful and three-time Gujarat Chief Minister NarendraModi gave five interviews to TV news channels within 10 days ahead of the results of the 2014 elections to the LokSabha that will be a “game changer” for political parties and for the nation. However, Modi’s interview with Times Now Editor-in-ChiefArnabGoswami went viral on social media not because of the prime minister-in-waiting but because of – as social media posts said -- “the shouter finally got shouted down without being shouted at” and “even the immensely audible Arnab is lulled into silence”.
Arnab had recently interviewed Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who fumbled, perspired and looked totally at sea while answering the editor’s questions. This was more of the Arnab we have seen on Times Now: the man who invites speakers to his talk shows and is infamous for doing all the talking while the guests try to sneak in a line or two. As a recent jibe about Arnab doing the rounds on WhatsApp goes: “Rajnikanth once completed his sentence in an interview to ArnabGoswami.”
While Rahul Gandhi fumbled and stumbled through the interview, Modi took control right at the onset. While the Gandhi scion’s answer to a question on the 1984 riots was a pathetic “I was not there”, Modi seemed to have all the answers in his head, and in his heart. On the contrary, Arnab seemed like a school boy, reading out and referring to papers while Modi did not even pause to think before answering each and every question thrown at him, answering each question with uncanny confidence and humbleness which he has displayed throughout this election season.
At the start of the interview, Modi took on Arnab head-on, accusing Times Now of protecting the Gandhi family and the media of editing 60-minute long speeches to 30 seconds to suit their agenda.Modiquoted Supreme Court judgments, history and statistics to back his answers, showing that he was sure of what he was talking about.
Modi has carefully inculcated a new image for himself ever since he was declared the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate: the image of a man who is humble, inclusive, a tolerant person who respects the rule of law and a nationalist who genuinely puts the interests of the nation above everything else. Throughout the interview never once did he wax eloquent on the lines of I, me, myselfand mine. He simply credited all the work he is praised for to his core team, creating an impression that he is a team man and not a dictator. He did not allow himself to be cornered on issues like the 2002 riots, the Election Commission related issues, the Snoopgatecontroversy, Amit Shah utterances, former minister Maya Kodnani in Modi’s cabinet who was convicted for her role in the 2002 Gujarat riots, land allotted to theAdanis, the caste card, the BJP’s religious leanings or the Modi versus the Gandhis controversy. When asked about Kodnani, Modi takes a leaf out of Arnab’s infamous aggression and asks him: “Who has given you this information? At least do your research. I thought Arnab does his research well. For your information, she was not facing any charges at the time.”
Modiused the interview into an opportunity to highlight the various issues of corruption, price rise, malgovernance, poverty, jobs for the poor and NRIs and blamed the UPA government for never speaking about inflation and corruption.
When asked about Rahul Gandhi and the 1984 riots, Modi speaks about the Gujarat riots for which he has been blamed repeatedly, and candidly tells Arnab to do his research and that he is biased and has “filth in head!” When Modi tells Arnab, “Agar Hindi meysamajhnahiayatohdobaraboltahoon… (If you do not understand Hindi, let me tell you again…). This shuts up the man who is infamous for shutting up people. Following this, a visibly shaken Times Now editor-in-chief stammers out his next question, shaken by Modi’s attack.
As the 90-minute interview draws to a close, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate turns to the camera and addresses the viewers, saying “the power of democracy is its people and I revere them”. Unlike Rahul Gandhi, the man clearly feels the pulse of the people, while Arnab may have realised that shouting rarely works.
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