A rare news conference by the PM
“The prime minister of India rarely gets to speak, face-to-face, with the people of India,” writes historian Ramachandra Guha.
We might add the next-best-possible substitute ‘the media’ to this plaint.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will indeed have a rare conversation with the media on May 24, while presenting a report card on his government’s first year in office.
This is only the second time in six years the media gets to interact with the prime minister on a many-to-one basis.
So what prevents him?
Sonia Gandhi hardly ever gives interviews but then she is not a part of the government.
Manmohan Singh occupies a constitutional post being the de facto leader of the country.
Some say he is a technocrat and not a big speaker, yet he has been a politician for almost twenty years now.
And speaking to small audience like the press corps is seen as his strength.
Other democracies like U.S. and the UK seem to have it much better, where the leader talks to the media on a regular basis.
Apparently, China beats us on this, with the premier meeting the media every year after their parliament session is over.
PM Singh has been criticised for speaking mostly at “science congresses and confederations of industry” unless of course it be election time or a visit abroad.
He gave nearly 40 speeches at home and abroad since the start of this year and more than 800 over his six years as prime minister.
In one of which he spoke about a mission on pulses being set up when it had already been there for a couple of years. The newspaper which pointed out the “PM’s boo-boo” talked of keeping the speech writers updated.
Does that illustrate the importance of hearing directly from the PM?
The last time the media got its chance in September 2004 (or is it the last time the PM took his chance?) Manmohan Singh opened the conference saying, “I recognise there are risks but I am ready to throw the pigeon among the cats.”
Many said he came out with flying colours then.
Perhaps the PM has undertaken to run the “risk” as he needs to define his legacy, given this term will probably be his last.