Ever since Modi came to power in 2014, he has faced intense media scrutiny. Though that is the way to go for any media, the Indian media, and especially what we call the Lutyens’ media, has often been grossly unfair and, at times, even nasty in judging and labelling the Prime Minister.
On the other side, journalists have accused Modi of being mediaphobic or anti-media and claiming that he is taking away the freedom of the press and what not.
However, with his term now coming to a close and elections underway across the country, Modi recently gave an interview to the Indian Express, in which he didn’t shy away from calling out media bias outright.
He slammed the media for selectively targeting him and his government even as the media remained quiet over the last decade when the UPA was in power and scams after scams emerged.
He also said that though the UPA was a remote-control government for 10 years, the media didn’t really go after those who were holding the remote control.
Then he took on these wild allegations against him of things like corrupting the Indian democracy. To that, he said, “An illegal institution was created which could overrule the PM” - here he is talking about the National Advisory Council during UPA rule - he said, “Did you ask them about democracy? Questions like what you are asking me?”
And you might remember that Modi’s Rajiv Gandhi comment recently caused a stir, and for which the media fraternity was particularly harsh on him. Modi said this was unfair, pointing that no one seemed to have any problems when the prime minister was being called “chor” - thief in English - repeatedly. But there’s all this fuss when he makes a legitimate point about Rajiv Gandhi.
He said that the media had actually helped Rajiv Gandhi create a clean image despite accusations of his involvement in the Bofors scandal.
The Prime Minister also referred to the silence of the media on the role of the Congress during the 1984 Anti-Sikh Riots.
Then he brought up the frequent media reports on human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir and said that the cases of violence during state elections didn’t receive anywhere near as much coverage. Like the hundreds who were killed in violence during the panchayat elections in West Bengal.
Modi then defended allegations of hate speech against him. He said he didn’t care for the Khan Market consensus, referring to all the Delhi media talk about him.
But it wasn’t all slam-bang for the Prime Minister. He said he remained optimistic about the role of the media and saw social media as a catalyst for change.
Now, we’ve all known this - Modi and the media share a strained relationship. And this has been the case ever since he became chief minister of Gujarat and riots broke out in the state. There are journalists who have openly rallied against him. But he has been able to return the favour over the years by not indulging the mainstream media much and instead using social media to great effect.
But this time, he didn’t hold back against the media. And in the middle of election season, that may not be such a bad thing to do.
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