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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 23 January 2019

India’s Modi lampooned on social media for soft interview

Indian leader gives rare interview but is accused of fielding only easy questions

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a troubled relationship with the media, rarely granting interviews. AFP
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a troubled relationship with the media, rarely granting interviews. AFP

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been criticised for a rare interview in which he answered questions widely thought to have been so unchallenging that many believed it was scripted.

He sat down with news agency Asian News International on New Year’s Day, a rare occurrence for a world leader who has never given a press conference and has accepted only five interviews since he came to power in 2014.

It was seen as a move to quell criticism that he had for years failed to meet the media or be held to account by the country’s journalists. Unlike previous leaders, Mr Modi declined to take members of the press on foreign trips with him.

But several Indian journalists said the interview appeared to be manufactured, while one opposition politician said the questions were “more in the nature of feeding rather than grilling the prime minister”.

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Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi called Mr Modi’s ANI interviewer pliable and said that the Indian PM did not “have the guts” to address their questions at random.

Indian policy analyst Gaurav Pandhi said Mr Modi’s five interviews were fixed because interviewers had “offered vanilla softies” to the Indian leader instead of asking tough questions.

The criticism was partly aimed at the journalists who interviewed him, accusing them of failing to seek “answers India wants”.

Others shared cartoons lampooning the prime minister. One depicted India’s leader asking questions of himself alongside the caption “a heart to heart interview”. One critic posted a Photoshopped picture of Mr Modi sitting in a chair facing himself.

Mr Modi has a tense relationship with the media since becoming prime minister, and his party’s MPs have derided the media, calling them names like “presstitutes”.

Some supporters of Mr Modi say his lack of media presence is not an issue as he regularly holds large rallies.

Veteran actor-turned-politician Shatrughan Sinha called on Mr Modi to be more transparent this year.

But he had a warning for the Indian leader if he did not do so: “Elections are around the corner, sir.

“Long live democracy.”

Updated: January 6, 2019 06:57 PM

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