Nearly two decades ago, as a member of the Pune working journalists union, I remember an occasion during one of our usual protests over something or the other, we had gathered outside the Pune Union of Working Journalists (PUWJ) office, which was then opposite the Congress Bhavan, near Bal Gandharva Rangmandir.

I don’t remember who the President of the PUWJ  was then. I remember, the late Taher Shaikh, who was my senior at Maharashtra Herald, was there with us as we gathered across the road from Congress Bhavan, It was he who spotted Maratha  strongman Sharad Pawar, coming out of the Congress office. We thought that if we all rushed towards him, he might listen to what the members had to say. We were still standing on the divider, waiting to go across in a group, when Pawar signalled with his forefinger that we were to stay put. Then he saw Taher and beckoned to him. After all, they had been classmates in Wadia College. But the rest of the journalists, including some senior journalists from the vernacular press who strutted around like they were the cat’s whiskers stopped in their tracks. Some were even rudely told to go back.

I was reminded of the incident while reading about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s complete silence when dealing with journalists. A lot of people have been asking why this prime minister is keeping a studied silence on issues which concerned the nation. And it’s not just he, but everybody else in his team also, who has suddenly shut up. The man who couldn’t stop talking before the election, has nothing more to say to the media. And to top it off, the royal snub was not being invited on anymore junkets with the PM’s entourage. No daaru, khaana and whatever else. To me it looks like the start of an extended dry day for the mainstream media (MSM)! I guess that’s why when that Ved Prakash Vaidek managed to speak with Hafiz Saeed, they wanted to get the former arrested for sedition! Honestly, guys, where does it say in any goddamn journalism manual or book that one cannot interview even the biggest terrorist? Desperation has its limits and the media is really letting it hang out!

Anyway, coming back to Modi and the media. Used to as they have always been, to speak to ministers when they need to, or having access to the PMO through a media advisor, this media has been clean bowled by the prime minister. Why should he speak when he’s got a lot of people ready to deal with the busybodies in the media who have questions to which the nation needs answers? I think it has dawned on a lot of mediapersons that they’ve been taken for one hell of a ride. They thought he was, oh, so accessible, so open, so unlike Manmohan Singh! It has now dawned on them that this guy is a different kettle of fish. I just think it’s because he doesn’t need to say anything anymore, because he and his party got what they wanted and got to where they wanted to!

Whether Modi’s silence is intentional or unintentional is something we aren’t going to know. Remember, this is the man, who sailed through every indictment made against him, without ever clearing the air, after the initial attempts. As every journalist, activist and politician threw everything at him, he stayed mum and moved on to bigger things. I’ve said this before, but his silence in the midst of all the loud noises from the other side, have only helped him get an even bigger image. He didn’t have to say a word. He remember him telling a news channel that he stopped talking because he felt people were anyway saying and writing whatever they wanted to. I guess he is employing the same tactics now. Let’s see if it works.

Now, even the most senior journalists don’t know how to approach the new MPs and ministers, because they are not quite sure how these MPs will react. It must be particularly galling for news anchors who believe they are on first name terms with politicians! Take Ravi Shankar Prasad, Sushma Swaraj or Smriti Irani, for example, who were so visible before the election? Have you seen them on a news channel after the election, taking part in any debate?

I get vicarious pleasure watching the way Modi is treating the mainstream media, especially those in the national capital who believe that when they order, any person, high or low, must come scurrying. It’s fun to watch them fretting and fuming about the silence from the prime minister and his ministers, and having to listen to only those who are supposed to address the media.

Imagine having to depend on twitter for updates about the prime minister – in just 140 characters!!

 

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