Prime Minister Narendra Modi's interview with Arnab Goswami on Times Now started with the anchor asking, "This is your first one-to-one interview to a private news channel since you became prime minister. And if I am not mistaken, this is the first-ever interview by a sitting prime minister of India to a private television news channel in the country."
Let me start by correcting Arnab. Modi is not the first prime minister who has given an interview to a private news channel.
I remember IK Gujaral gave at least two interviews to Home TV and that was a private news channel.
Now let's come to the content.
Even by the anchor's account, it was an historic occasion to pose tough questions to prime minister about his 763 days of governance. He should have taken stock of his electoral promises and deliveries, achievements and failures.
He should have asked hard-hitting questions on issues like black money, price rise, infiltration, terror attacks, teaching lessons to Pakistan and China, infighting within the BJP, leaders of the ruling party helping the fugitive Lalit Modi, corruption in the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA), Vyapam scam, statements made by fringe elements within the BJP and so on.
But these questions were either not touched or asked in such a polite manner that it sounded like a student putting questions to his teacher. Rather than asking tough questions, as he boasts he does, Goswami asked, "Mr prime minister, there has been no major financial corruption or scam in your tenure in the last two years." So, rather than being tough, he gave the certificate of corruption-free governance to Modi.
Let's see how a few of the questions were worded:
"The amount of personal interest you have shown in foreign policy, probably none of the previous prime ministers showed the same kind of interest. Your approach is proactive. What I find interesting about your foreign policy is that you have balanced different powers and different interests."
"You have a very aggressive foreign policy."
|The tone and tenor of almost all the questions suggest that they are not probing in nature.|
"This statement that you just made is also apt in the context of America where you gave a speech in the US Congress. By the way, Mr prime minister, it was a fantastic speech... There was a lot of humour. You were laughing and cracking jokes while you delivered the speech, which was very unique. They also appreciated it."
"In the past two years, you have started many schemes. If we look at the theme of Jan Dhan Yojna for financial inclusion, Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna for crop insurance, Swachh Bharat, Skill India, Make In India. If we see the theme running through these schemes, is your social agenda at the core of your personal economic philosophy, social transformation? Is the social agenda at the core of your economic philosophy as the prime minister?"
"Mr prime minister, how are you keeping your schedule nowadays? I mean you keep a terrifying pace. The number of meetings you hold, people say your officers find it hard to keep up."
"Prime minister Narendra Modi, how much is politics playing on your mind? In the sense that every prime minister, especially someone who is as forthright as you, looks at the next big challenge."
The tone and tenor of almost all the questions suggest that they are not probing in nature but of outright praise and adulation. Sometime they give feelings of even flattery. And by no account was it a tough interview.
And the interview ended with this conversation:
PM Modi: I just request you to not create controversies out of this but instead use it for the benefit of the country.
Arnab: Please do not think like that.
This clearly tells that the prime minister is worried about controversies this interview may generate. And like a loyal student, Arnab is assuring him not to worry. And suggesting it won't happen.
The channel claims, "In the last ten years, TIMES NOW's reporters asked some really tough questions to politicians."
If this is its benchmark then how should this interview be catogarised? It may be a good PR exercise for both but it is indeed not professional journalism.