Web Editor’s Note: It’s not an exaggeration to suggest that no Indian politician has dominated politics the way Narendra Modi has since he became the Prime Minister in 2014. As he turns 70, we join the nation in praying for his good health.
However, as journalists we do have one beef. PM Modi has never fielded questions from reporters at a press conference since he became the Prime Minister, which is quite a travesty when one considers that we are the biggest democracy in the world.
Sure, there have been interviews but they have been more of friendly jousting about one's sartorial and gustatory desires rather than political questions.
Yet, the Fourth Estate’s raison d'etre has always been to speak truth to power which includes holding the government to task when they go astray. So, for once, we would love it if the PM would listen to our “Mann Ki Baat”.
Therefore, here are 70 questions that the good folks of The Free Press Journal Online team are simply dying to ask PM Modi:
Know your PM: Man behind the office
1. We know your background as a chaiwallah. But are you a tea or coffee person? Or do you take after Akshay Kumar?
2. Have you ever tried Maggi? If yes, what's your secret ingredient?
3. What are your essentials/must-haves while leaving for an international trip?
4. Name your favourite shows/books/movies.
5. Have you ever read a banned book?
Childhood and Education
7. Much has been written about your childhood, mostly flattering stuff. Can you tell us how much of the stuff written in the ‘Bal Narendra’ comic book is true?
8. There was a photo of you sweeping the floor which went viral ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Later, an RTI revealed it was fake. Why didn't you clarify?
9. When the entire fracas happened about your degree, why didn't you clear the air?
10. Also, what is entire political science and how does one opt for it?
Controversies as Gujarat CM
11. Despite clean chits and enquiries, there are still questions about your complicity and role in the Gujarat riots. Do you have any regrets?
12. Zakia Jafri, the widow of Ehsan Jafri, claimed that her husband called you on the fateful night but received no help. Is she being untruthful or there is something we don’t know?
13. As the Chief Minister of state and the state being responsible for the law and order, shouldn’t the buck have stopped at your door?
14. You once referred to riots relief camps as ‘child producing centres’. Was it a conscious statement or was it misconstrued?
Politics and Dissent
15. You are obviously a very polarising figure. If there are some who worship you, there are also those who hate everything about you. Do you like this or would you want to be a more uniting figure?
16. Do you personally read the mean op-eds that are written about you?
17. Have you read about fascism, Hitler, Mussolini? People who call you fascist often find some resemblance between Nazi Germany and India under Modi. How do you respond to that?
18. Do you ever feel the urge to be more 'fascist' after reading op-eds that label you 'fascist'?
19. While you have publicly said you welcome criticism, your followers do not seem to agree with you. The BJP IT Cell and assorted members often bestow the kindest sobriquets on critics. What's your opinion?
20. What do you think about the vilification of students from AMU or JNU and labelling them 'anti-national'?
21. Do you think students should stay away from political activities?
22. Does this government care more about coronavirus deaths than other deaths? Is it because the foreign press is watching?
23. Do you think such a long lockdown was an unprecedented disaster?
24. Your government said in the Parliament that it does not have any data on migrant deaths during the lockdown. Isn't that a travesty?
25. You say you believe in transparency. If that is the case, why should the government not be forthcoming about the PM-CARES Fund?
26. Has the fight against COVID-19 been a success?
Keeping It Stylish
27. What do you use to maintain that Viking beard?
28. If you could wear one outfit for the rest of your life, which one would it be?
29. What's your skin-care routine? Does it really involve mushrooms?
Economy and jobs
30. Do you still seriously believe demonetisation is a hit?
31. GST was supposed to be Good and Simple Tax. What went wrong?
32. Some states now regret giving up the control over revenue collection for GST as the Centre is not releasing funds on time. Did the states get short-changed?
33. Was going lower than Hindu rate of growth a plan to bolster your Hindu Hriday Samrat image?
34. What is the immediate and long-term plan that the government has in place to revive the economy?
35. You promised two crore jobs a year in 2014 election, but the unemployment rate has come to to a 45-year-high, how do you address that?
36. Your govt refused to acknowledge NSSO report on employment and later released it after the elections. Why?
37. Your government worked to improve ‘Ease of Doing Business’ rank but does it show similar gusto for other indices like Human Development Index (129 among 189 countries) Press Freedom Index (142nd among 180 countries) where it is uncomfortably placed?
Law and Governance
38. You promised minimum government, maximum governance. Has anything changed? What went wrong there?
39. Due to the spate of lynchings, the Supreme Court ordered your government to bring an anti-lynching law, is there any development?
40. You worked to scrap 100s of redundant, obsolete laws. Should laws like sedition that the British used to quell dissent exist in a democratic society?
41. Do you believe in the Presidential style of governance?
42. Your government brought in a law like CAA which threw the country into a turbulent phase? Your ministers kept making contradictory statements about it. The Govt refused to clarify the 'chronology'. Was it worth it?
43. When all other festivals or events were cancelled in the view of pandemic, was Ayodhya Bhoomi Poojan really important?
44. When will real normalcy - not the ANI televised one - return to Kashmir?
45. Was the Rs 15 lakh promise real?
46. What are your views on extra-judicial encounters?
47. Do you support same-sex marriage?
48. Are you trying to see how many voters you can alienate by refusing to postpone NEET-JEE or banning PUBG?
49. Why did the NSA pretend to eat biryani in Kashmir?
50. What did we promise Mark Zuckeberg that made Facebook such a great 'friend'?
51. How do you really feel about your 'proud' supporters sending out rape threats to critics?
52. Do you handle your own social media accounts? What is it like being one of the most followed leaders?
Dealing with Opposition
53. Who's your favourite pantomime villain to explain the current dispensation's failures - Jawaharlal Nehru, China or Pakistan?
54. Who would you rather be stuck in a room with – Carry Minati, Kunal Kamra or Rahul Gandhi?
55. Name one opposition leader who you think can challenge and defeat you in a presidential style election.
56. Do you care about the bad press you get abroad?
57. Who is your best friend among world leaders? Former or present.
BJP: Past, Present and Future
58. Don’t you feel it's ironic that your party claims both Godse’s and Gandhi’s legacy at the same time?
59. If you had to pick just one, who’d you pick – Amit Shah or Ajit Doval?
60. Will Subramanian Swamy get a second term in Rajya Sabha?
61. Who do you think is your successor in the BJP?
62. What do you do to unwind or de-stress? What's your mantra?
63. What do you do when you have bad jet lag after travelling overseas? How do you get rid of it before your meetings with world leaders?
64. If you could be one movie character from any film (Bollywood or Hollywood), who would you be?
65. While China has been provoking India for a long time, do you think India can stand up to China's economic and military might?
66. Do you regret re-hyphenating India and Pakistan on a global stage?
67. What role should India play in Afghanistan's current political process?
68. Which foreign friend India can always rely on?
69. What has India actually achieved with your many foreign visits?
70. What is India’s stand on the Israel-Palestine conflict?
We hope you have a great birthday. All the best to you from the FPJ family.