Friday, November 1, 2013

Why does Modi run away from a debate?

Kapil Sibal yesterday challenged Narendra Modi to a public debate on the performance of the UPA government. Earlier, Manish Tiwari had also put forward a similar challenge. To be fair, BJP leaders of various hues have also challenged the PM to a similar public debate. When the PM refused to bite the bait, he was pooh poohed by them. Now the shoe is on the other foot.

Why is the great speaker, the great visionary, the great development guru, the great nationalist, the great “Obama of India” not accepting a presidential-style debate? Arun Jaitley can mock Sibal and others and call them names (2nd run leaders blah blah), but how can he forget his own stature? He is merely a Sibal contemporary as a lawyer, and surely lower down the pecking order in Parliament as well. Why is he not advising his good friend and PM aspirant to take the bait and “destroy” the Congress? Sushma Swaraj would certainly be willing to a debate of this type. Why not Modi then?

Fact is Modi believes in a “hit and run” approach to elections. He arrives at a rally, makes some bizarre sensationalist points (which have no basis, no relevance), and scoots. His preferred style is a one-way communication in which the other side has no chance to raise questions. But then Modi is not the type to answer questions; he is the one to raise them! Because he didn’t want to answer questions, he never allowed a Lok Ayukta in his state. For the same reasons, he has just one RTI Commissioner in Gujarat (whereas even a small state like Punjab has 9 reportedly). And for the same reasons, he refuses to give one-on-one interviews to journalists. Why should he? He has a dozen of them swooning over him and doing his bidding at his every signal, earning the whole media the @paidmedia ignominy.

What is Modi afraid of? Is his knowledge of economics really shallow as Chidambaram has hinted? Does he really know his onions or is someone scripting it all for him? We do know that he is very well versed in matters of land, and how to distribute them to industrialists at discounted rates. That’s why they love him so much. But does he really understand what GDP is, and what HDI is, and what fiscal deficit is and so on, the things that he is so happy to rant about in every one-way communication opportunity he gets?

Does he also worry that some sharp journo will ask him for a “plan of action” rather than merely cribs? What would he say for instance on the food security bill? Will he say its bad nationally, but good in Chhatisgarh? What about FDI in multi-brand retail? Will he scrap the policy when (and if) he becomes PM while at the same time supporting domestic biggies? Is this the BJP’s swadeshi tilt? What about education? How much % of GDP will he provide for education, even if not 20% like China?! What about the land policy, without which industrialization is impossible? Will he dilute the provisions of the new law or risk the ire of the industrialists who swear by him? Will he increase diesel prices, cut LPG subsidy, raise kerosene prices and promise to auction each and every asset the government has? The problem is that Modi knows his rhetoric will get stripped if he were to face a journo. He knows that. It’s his achiles heal. He has to protect himself from such an ambush!

Typically people who are hollow in substance tend to put on a more pompous presentation. It’s the same “beauty v/s brains” thing. Modi is “beautiful” in the sense that he can deliver fabulous speeches. But he is also “without brains”, in the sense that he cannot take on specifics.

That’s why he has reportedly only given a handful of interviews to senior TV journos….and even there he’s scooted from at least one of them. If he ever decides to give an interview, he will to his favorite channel host, the one who meowed like a puny cat when speaking with MNS tiger Raj Thackeray! This anchor will be eager to cover up all the gaffes; maybe even allow Modi to edit the interview himself!

But if Modi really wants a presidential style election, and is really confident about himself, he must accept the challenge from Sibal. It’s a good chance for him to demolish Sibal and the Congress! Maybe a senior journalist can moderate the dialogue as happens in the US. But then people will know for sure what Modi stands for, rather than what he doesn’t. Then he will be able to answer the questions that many have in their minds. Maybe the PM is silent, but we know his is the case of “silent waters run deep”. Why is Modi so silent?

The real truth is that Modi is just a showman. No substance, no stuff. Just a lot of bluster. His goof ups are now starting to come out; many are covered up by eager-to-impress journos. But soon, the truth will be out. The messiah will be exposed for what he really is!

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