Recently, was watching an interview of Home Minister P Chidambaram, where on a question posed by NDTV editor, Sonia Singh on the PM's 'silence' on many issues including Lokpal Bill , he remarked- "Many people want the PM to speak, or rise up to the plate, But One has to know and belief in the style of the person."
I have read umpteen editorials in various newspapers on why PM is silent on this issue, why PM always speaks later, and what are the PM's views contentious issues. Whenever a political event unfolds (like that of Baba Ramdev's fast, or may be wikileaks !) bloggers and opinion makers on forums like twitter and facebook, people in news paper columns and on tv shows ask the same stupid question. Yes Stupid Indeed.
I shall now humbly describe, why is it - STUPID !
Post Liberalization, The First stable Govt to complete 5 years of power, was the NDA Government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee. There were few television channels then, very few indeed. FDI in media was limited and the country was still opening up. Scams took place.
Yes a lot of them. Like Operation Westend,Phukhan Commission,Kargil Coffin Scam,Kargil Cess Misuse,Telecom Scam- Pramod Mahajan-Reliance-Arun Shourie-Bailout Package to Private Players,UTI Scam,Cyberspace Infosys Ltd. Scam,Petrol Pump and Gas Agency Allotment Scam, Judeo Scam ,Centaur Hotel Deal, Delhi Land Allotment Scam,HUDCO Scam involving Ananth Kumar,VSNL Disinvestment Scam by Arun Shourie,Arvind Johri-Vajpayee-IT Park Lucknow Scam,Delhi Plot Allotment Scam,Medical Procurement Scam - C P Thakur, BALCO Disinvestment Scam,Jain-Hawala Case -L K Advani and so on
How many times did Atal Bihari Vajpayee came on air and spoke about these scandals? How Many Times did he either defended the Govt or the people involved ? How many PAC's or JPC's were made created for these scams? How many sound bytes did his party offer then?
Vajpayee on many occassions either dropped ministers, changed them or re-instated them (like in the case of Defence Minister George Fernandes, when the problem was a bit serious)
But Did Vajpayee spoke? Or Give Sound Bytes ? Of Course one cannot deny that the oratory skills of Vajpayee were far better than the present incumbent of the job , Dr Manmohan Singh.
Since in Politics- Relative Performance matters, and Voters cast their vote on a ballot paper judging a set of political parties and their representatives- One always compares the two. (This is the reason for bringing Vajpayee into the discussion !)
Now lets shed some light on the present situation.
The UPA-2 Government has completed 2 years of power. FDI in Media has been increased (of course in UPA-1 itself) The 24 hour News channels on TV which had a 'Breaking News' once or twice a day, are now showing 'Breaking News' every single minute. The all affluent middle class which has enjoyed the fruits of Liberalization is now vocal and damn opinionated, with tools like Twitter and Facebook on the touch of a button. They have the power to abuse the system and government more now. From the prices of onions to the policy frame work of the Twelfth 5 year plan - They share their opinions on Everything !
(Of course those who haven't yet received the fruits of liberalization are still gaping at such probabilities and fighting for basic services like banking, ration etc; but that is a different story altogether !)
The UPA-1 Government has given India- Right to Information. Anybody can access information related to Govt. (unless it is classified for security reasons) and can take on the government by filing PILs or applications against erring Govt. servants. (Vajpayee regime never thought of such a novel law, and had kept the system opaque and out of bounds)
So now , the 24x7 media news channels can easily access leaked CAG reports, or file RTI's to nail anybody or to 'expose' the deficiencies in the system. Now people can easily question the PM every single minute on any issue, which may not even concern him.
The PM on his part has tried to adjust to this new India. He has given Two Major interviews/interactions - 1) To All Eminent Newspaper Editors 2) To Editors and Journalists of Electronic Media. Whenever the PM travels abroad, there is always a media session on board in his special flight. According to the PM's official website , Since May 2009, (ie when UPA-2 came to power) the PM has taken 18 such foreign visits .Therefore The PM has spoken to the media not less than 20 times in 2 years. Which I think is still a little less. Now in two years, the PM has given sound bytes on occasions of National importance in functions of Rashtrapati Bhawan and also when heads of state of foreign countries arrive in India. In 2010, itself- All the heads of G-5 countries - UK, US, Russia, China and France paid state level visits to India. The PM spoke on All occasions. So we can easily take the number to almost 30 (assuming that the PM provided his precious sound bytes to our decibel hungry media in functions in Rashtrapati Bhavan)
The Congress Party has had atleast 12 conventions, including the Plenary Session and the 125th Foundation day celebrations in the last 2 years. On every occasion the PM has spoken to the people. Which takes the number to 42
The PM has also spoken to the Nation on Independence Day, Has also gone on air before the Ayodhya verdict. He has also spoken many times in the Parliament. From the debate on Price Rise (Cut Motion) , to issues such as Pakistan, to 2G scam , Debate on Wikileaks etc. The PM always makes it a point to share his views on Budget- whether railways or general.
The PM has also addressed various political rallies in State Elections post 2009. The PM speaks whenever he inaugurates National Projects like T3 Terminal of the Delhi Airport or dedicates Ports or Oil refineries to the Nation.
Adding all this we can easily take our total to a comfortable 60
So in 24 months of UPA Government the PM has spoken 2.5 times a month to either the media or the people- Which is Once in 12 days. Which is certainly not a bad record for a PM who is often labelled as Apolitical, Technocrat and Maintains a Low Profile. A PM who believes in Actions rather than Words.
So where's the Silence? Is it not Misunderstood
Either by Me or By the Media?
You be the Judge !