The feisty British media has just subjected Narendra Modi to what was perhaps his toughest press conference since becoming India’s prime minister in May last year.
Hours after he landed in London, at a joint press conference with his British counterpart David Cameron on Nov. 12, Modi—who hasn’t held a proper press meet in India yet—was forced to face a couple of difficult questions.
The first came from the BBC, which after asking Cameron why it took Modi so long to make a state visit, simply posed: “Prime minister Modi, India is becoming an increasingly intolerant place. Why?”
The Guardian newspaper followed up with another difficult question. But first, it asked Cameron how he felt about inviting Modi to the UK.
“Prime minister Cameron, can I ask you how comfortable do you feel welcoming prime minister Modi to this country given that for the first two years of your premiership he was not permitted to visit this country because of his record as chief minister of Gujarat?”
Then, after also questioning Modi on the UK and the EU, the British newspaper asked Modi the following:
And also prime minister Modi can I ask you, tomorrow night you will obviously have a rapturous reception at Wembley Stadium. There are a number of protesters out today who are saying, and I am wondering what you say to them, that given your record as chief minister of the state of Gujarat, you do not deserve the respect that would normally be accorded to the leader of the world’s largest democracy?
The final question came from another member of the Indian press who probed Modi about how he expects the UK to help India given the country’s current financial and social conditions.
It has been a difficult few weeks for the Indian prime minister—after the continuing outrage over intolerance and his party’s defeat in Bihar—and the British press isn’t making it any easier.
In reply to questions on intolerance, Modi spoke about Budha’s India and how intolerance showed will not be tolerted “even for a day, and even for one instance”.
On his visa to EU being denied, The PM replied –
“Firstly, to set the record straight, I want to inform you that I had come to the UK in 2003 and was welcomed and respected… and attended events here. The UK has never stopped me from coming here. There was no restriction ever. I could not come due to time constraints, and that’s a different thing. So you have wrong perception, please correct it.”
UK press has been unflattering of the Indian PM even before he set foot in London.
On Nov. 09, author A journalist Pankaj Mishra described him as an “…opportune manipulator of mass disaffection with uneven and unstable growth, who distracts a fearful and atomised citizenry with the demonisation of minorities, scapegoating of ostensibly liberal, cosmopolitan and ‘rootless’ people, and promises of ‘development’, while facilitating crony capitalism.”