Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Misunderstood Silence

“Hazaaron Jawabon Se Acchi Hai Meri Khamoshi, Na Jaane Kitne Sawaalon Ki Aabru Rakhe”

The above couplet was recited by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh to the media awaiting his word, when he was not allowed to speak in Parliament due to the constant slogan shouting and ruckus on the coal block allocation issue. Dr. Singh as a PM of the country had every constitutional right to make a statement on the coal block controversy in the Parliament. Later enroute to Delhi from the NAM summit, when asked about the opposition strategy of "paralyzing" the Parliament, he said that he has to maintain the dignity of his office and he will not indulge in a "tu-tu , main-main" duel with the opposition.

There has been a widespread impression in the Indian media that Dr. Singh refrains from giving his views on issues bothering his Govt and on daily issues of Governance! In an earlier attempt I had debunked this theory by proving through statistics that the PM was speaking atleast 2.5 times a month, which according to the standards of Indian heads of the state, was good enough. This was before, the PM came on Twitter

Since then a lot of water has flown, albeit bothways! The PMO got a new advisor as Pankaj Pachauri - A household name in the psyche of the Television friendly Indian middle class. There are regular newsbites by the PMO on Twitter, YouTube videos and also a Facebook page of 3 Lakh+ which has fairly regular updates.

The other side of the story is the constant controversies the UPA-2 has to face , which washed two parliament sessions - The entire Winter session was lost out last year, and in this washed out Monsoon session, the Lok Sabha has worked for 23 hours and the Rajya Sabha ( till now) has worked for 26 hours!

There has been a spate of Media articles from the Foreign Media - Time Magazine has labelled Dr. Singh as "Underachiever" , A UK daily called him "Sonia's puppet" and now Washington Post has called him a "Tragic Figure"

As a votary of Free Media , I would say that all the National and International media outlets are well within the Right to question Dr. Singh's tenure - his media management , his demeanor , his governance and everything else in between. But what they cannot question is is his Silence!

Critics would be baffled by this argument of mine, they may badger this article by calling me a fool! But statistics and figures would prove them wrong. And as an admirer of an Economist, I will let the figures do the talking!

Since May 2009 to August 2012 - The Prime Minister's office displays over 340 Press Releases. So in 40 months of UPA - 2 tenure - the PM spoke 8.5 times a month ! This comes out to be 2.125 times a Week! Which in lay man terms is  Once in Every 3 Days! Which is a fairly good record!

The Prime Minister also speaks on Public Platforms such as University convocations, Ministry functions, Domestic and International Visits, his replies in the Parliament

This data if counted on the PM's website reveals that since May 2009 to Aug 2012, Dr. Manmohan Singh has given 430 Speeches! Which is 10.75 per month ! Which is 2.68 per Week ! Which is again once in 3 days !

Since both these interactions are different, the net figure is all the more astonishing! Our "media shy" PM has spoken almost TWICE in 3 days!

Since the PMO uses twitter since the past January 2012, and till this hour had 952 tweets- yes mostly those same press releases and speeches - But a lot more data too- like graphs- pictures- essential parts of his speeches etc ! We should take this data with a pinch of salt, but still!

In 198 days of PMO stay on Twitter till now, and 952 tweets ! It's Safe to say that  "PM" tweets almost 5 times a Day ! Which is again, an answer to all his critics who ridicule his Silence!

The Congress Party has had almost 20 Conventions till now, and the PM has spoken in each one of them. We have had numerous state elections and PM spoke addressed atleast 3- 4 public meetings for every state!

The PM may not have given many individual interviews, but has had press conferences for News channels, News paper editors and has been giving sound bites on many Govt functions such and regular ceremonies in the Rashtrapati Bhawan!

What we must introspect is that, due to influx of mass media and social media and our daily connectivity to the world, We expect our PM to talk everyday, and all the day!

In a Democracy, political leaders articulate their views in the Parliament , but if the PM of the country is not able to speak, due to obstructionist attitude of a few , and Parliament fails to function! Where else would he speak? Given a chance on atleast two distinct occasions - the PM has displayed his flair of public speaking when given a chance!

Dr. Manmohan Singh virtually lifted 350 million people out of Poverty , due to Liberalization of the Economy! He provided an average growth of 8.4 % to India during UPA -1 . He was re elected for this ! India under him became the 3rd Largest Economy in terms of PPP- GDP ! India is Still the 2nd Fastest Growing Economy in the World! Despite all the global slowdown and the Euro crises, despite all the internal mess, despite so many allegations of "scams" this Govt is dealing with!

I think the point is - Do we want to question the PM's "silence", Or Do we want to hear from him , what WE WANT to hear ?

Clearly, the "Silence" argument is debunked here by facts ! Rest you be the judge!