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Monday, May 24, 2010

The Usual Platitudes at PM's Presser

As I blog this, a rare event is on: the Prime Minister's Press Conference. After 4 years, the PM has deigned to have a press conference in the Capital. This seems to be part of the strategy of all prime ministers: namely, not have detailed interactions with the press, and confine themselves to brief off-the-cuff remarks at impromptu occasions created by Investiture ceremonies, on-board occasions on the Prime Ministerial plane, or Iftar parties. This is so different from how it works in other democracies: Obama exposes himself to the White House Press Corps on a almost weekly basis, and so do the British leaders.
Anyhow, tough questions were asked, to which the usual platitudes were trotted out. Since our newspersons do not hunt in packs, there were no follow-up questions asked to those platitudes. Of course nobody is allowed to ask a second question, but the follow-up could have come from someone else. Alas, we let the PM off the hook despite the puerile replies.
It was tough watching the live telecast: between failure of the live feed from Vigyan Bhavan, to power failures of the local cable operators, interruption of the viewing was the order of the day.Guess some heads will roll in DD in the coming days. 
Not surprisingly, the tough question came from the rude and combative Sunil Prabhu, a virtual "rowdy" in Tamil style: "Are you going to step down later in the term, and allow Rahul Gandhi to become the PM?" 
As anyone who has been a part of the Delhi press corps knows, there is no louder voice than the Sunil Prabhu foghorn. I've seen entire pressers being hijacked by him. The PM, to his credit, gave a shy smile, and said , I'm always willing to do whatever the party wants...
Though the PM started off looking slow and rusty, he improved as the presser went on. That makes a case for more frequent interactions. That would also make the pressers easier, as the press would find a more regular vent for their questions, than compress it for years, and then open a sudden valve like this...
One  surprising thing was his discomfort with Hindi. Even to questions in Hindi, he answered in English. Surprising because this was not a Tamil-bound Azhagiri, but a Punjabi settled in Delhi for many a decade.

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