Published On : Sun, Sep 20th, 2015

As Modi’s Man ki Bat concludes one year we look at the omissions and commissions

New Delhi:
“My fellow citizens, this is 12th episode of Mann Ki Baat, a year has passed. I had addressed you in October last year,” Prime Minister Modi said as he began his Man ki bat this morning, which apart being telecast from all radio stations is also shown on many TV channels, specially those controlled by the Government.

This episode of Man ki bat is significant for another reason – the opposition had approached the Election commission to prohibit the telecast this month in view of Bihar elections next month, but they failed.

Several parties, including the Congress, the JD(U) and the RJD, had approached the Election Commission on Wednesday seeking suspension of PM’s radio address ‘Mann ki Baat’ until completion of the Bihar elections. In a letter to the poll watchdog, they said that permitting Prime Minister to use the official mass media would give him and the BJP an unfair advantage

However the Election Commission has found nothing objectionable in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Mann Ki Baat to be broadcast on September 20 and so the speech went ahead as planned.

“One year, a lot of conversation. I learnt a lot from you. Jan Shakti (people’s strength) is very important in a democracy.” Commented Modi in the talk.

He spent much of the time summing up all issues he had touched upon in these monthly broadcasts. All these issues like celebrating the girl child by taking selfies with daughters; giving up gas subsidies, espousing khadi , promoting India as a tourist destination with scenic photos and Swatcha Bharat Abhiyan were accepted very well by listeners and I got more positive response than I expected, said Modi.

“Thirty lakh Indian families have given up their gas subsidies” said the PM, adding ” and the noteworthy point is that most of these are not rich Indians who have made the sacrifice, it is middle class and many poor Indians who did it.”

The most important point Modi touched upon however was not something that was for the ‘general good’ as his other issues have been. In fact, it could be a contentious issue, and if not handled properly could lead to a lot of ugly politicking.

” Very soon, I am going to have the honour of receiving Subhash Chandra Bose’ entire family in the ‘Pradhanmantri Nivas’ “( home of the Prime Minister) he informed the listeners at large. He refrained from touching upon the question of whether the Bose files are going to be made public or not; something the Bengal CM Mamta Banerjee has already announced.

The message is clear – after doing his best to hijack Sardar Patel from the Congress party, now the country’s Prime Minister is going to hold up the Bose family. Is it a bid to “show up” the Gandhi family and rub it in to the Congressmen that there are other families from India’s freedom struggle worth honouring? Which brings us to the question – are these radio talks really all that innocuous and harmless? And more importantly – what do they tell us about what goes on in our PM’s mind?

The portents of the year old Man ki Bat

Having been a more or less regular listener of these talks the following points trouble me.

The content of the talks have more often than not, given a wide berth to issues that really matter. Or just touched upon on a superficial level. Taking selfies with daughters is alright, a good photo op for all concerned, but what about how safe women are even today in the capital city of Delhi if not the rest of India? Has there been any improvement in the catastrophic and declining male-female ratios in many Indian cities and states?

He spoke about how ‘popular’ the Swatch Bharat Abhiyan had become but failed to mention the killer Dengu that is taking lives of children in Delhi – a disease that is caused by mosquitoes that breed because of accumulated filth and dirty nullahs that are chocked with plastic and other waste. Again, it is happening not just in Delhi but all over.

There are so many issues concerning so many Indians he could have talked about but did not: farmers suicides, rising prices of essential commodities, non functioning of Parliament, the Vyapam scam in BJP ruled state of M.P. or the contentious Land Acquisition Bill.

More troubling, one also senses double standards and contradictions – out of politeness and courtesy we refrain from calling it hypocrisy. The PM elaborated at length about knowing our history well. “If you want to create history, you must know it first” were his wise words. Then how come he does not see the contribution of the Nehrus ( Motilal and Jawaharlal ) to India’s freedom struggle and that of the Congress party itself? He pays a lot of lip service to Mahatma Gandhi but he never condoles the anti-Gandhi thinking within RSS and other radical bodies that lead to his assassination at the hands of Godse. Now some not-such fringe elements are even talking about building a temple for Godse! Is Modi alright with that?

He talks a lot about children and youth and how they contribute to nation building… then why such indifference to the almost three month long agitation of FTII students against a Director who has been thrust on them? |

Such contradictions are too many to list. The chasm between what is being said and what is being done is so wide that credibility has taken a huge beating. The talks are akin to a Head master or a kindly grandfather who lives in his ivory tower and once in a while gives pep talks to his students before retreating behind his spectacles. They do not seem to have much concern with realities on the ground.

As veteran journalist Rajdeep Sardesai tweeted: