Editorial: Campaign Statement Flip-Flops – Only The PM Knows The Reason

Editorial: Campaign Statement Flip-Flops – Only The PM Knows The Reason

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Friday, May 17, 2024, 09:34 PM IST
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi | File

Faced with a testing question about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s series of election campaign statements which he retracted within days, union minister Piyush Goyal, himself a candidate from Mumbai North, shrugged and said that only the prime minister can answer why he made the retractions. The flip-flops, many say, are uncharacteristic of one who has been hailed as “a great orator” but has also been called a “teleprompter jeevi” after a series of gaffes in which his ability to speak without a teleprompter failed. While Modi’s ability to hold his loyal audience enthralled is not in doubt, it does not make him a great orator who, by definition, must have knowledge of subjects, be able to frame convincing arguments, speak with finesse, use language with command, and call on a range of emotions to convey his message.

Let us leave aside his oratorial skills or the lack of them. What he has been doing in the past few days is to make an assertive statement on a subject, usually in a political rally while appealing for votes, and then retract it within days, leaving even his fanboys and fangirls in the compliant media dumbstruck. This has happened not once but multiple times. He bellowed in Rajasthan, inaccurately, that the Congress wanted Muslims to have rights on the nation’s resources; days later, he told a television channel that he would never play the Hindu-Muslim card — only to go back on it in the next rally. Then, he stated that he needed “more than 400 seats so that Congress would not put a Babri lock on Ram Mandir” but flatly denied having said that. There are other examples trickling in.

Taken together, this points to at least two things. One is that the prime minister appears to alter and bend reality to suit the moment he is in, without context of the past or the future, calling into question his equilibrium. The other pertains to the people of India and must be taken more seriously. If anything, these flip-flops and retractions have demonstrated that the PM’s statements must now be taken with a healthy dose of scepticism and wariness. Unintentionally, he has turned his large and fawning club of fanboys and fangirls into fact-checkers who now look on as incredulously as everyone else did. Scales coming off the eyes about one’s hero is a good thing, especially in a democracy.

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