In the four interactions he&’s had with Delhi journalists as part of his first anniversary outreach to the media, Narendra Modi has been at pains to emphasise that he cares two hoots for the impression being created that he&’s losing the perception war. The impression has gained ground after Rahul Gandhi&’s suit-boot jibe to which government ministers are still trying to find a suitable riposte. Modi claims, however, that he is least bothered. Main iski parvah nahin kaarta, he is believed to have said at one of these media meets. 

His couldn’t-care-less attitude flies in the face of the overdrive that his government has gone into to roll out its “achievements” in the past one year. Rallies across the country, press conferences in state capitals, a signed letter from Modi himself on the front pages of all newspapers, media interviews by union ministers, advertisements, booklets and pamphlets….the government has used every platform possible to blow its own trumpet. The fanfare was kicked off by none less than the PM who travelled through heat wave conditions to address a rally in Mathura. Significantly, Modi&’s Mathura speech was laden with pro-poor and pro-farmer overtones, as if to erase the suit-boot taint.

His nonchalance in front of journalists is therefore bemusing. At one of the recent interactions, he spoke at length on the perception war and kept harking back to his Gujarat experience to buttress its irrelevance. He recalled that he was under constant attack from the media during his ten-year stint as Gujarat chief minister. He took no notice and went about doing his work and stayed connected with the people, he said. The strategy paid off, he insisted, because he won three terms as CM.

The chip he carries on his shoulder was very much in evidence when he trotted out his victim theory. He said he was well aware that certain groups were using a section of the media to target him. It didn’t bother him, he maintained.

Interestingly, the RSS seems to be quite concerned about the perception war. It has concluded that the Modi government is in danger of losing it. The first anniversary publicity blitzkrieg is probably in part an attempt to counter the criticism from within.

Self-obsessed

Modi&’s obsession with selfies caused quite a flutter during one of his recent media interactions. After spending nearly two hours chatting with journalists on the BJP beat, Modi got up to leave. It was well past 10:30 pm and host Arun Jaitley was getting restless.

Modi was on his way out and had almost got into his car when some journalists remembered that they hadn’t taken any photographs. No selfie with Modi, the king of selfies? Oh no! The journalists were heartbroken. Someone, perhaps it was Jaitley&’s deputy Rajyavardhan Rathore, plucked up the courage to go after the PM. And lo and behold, Modi happily came back in and posed for as many selfies as the correspondents wanted! He didn’t seem to be bothered by the fact that it was nearly 11 pm when the photo session ended.

Lucky chief

Few defence officers have been as fortunate as the current navy chief, Robin Dhowan. He would have retired without the honour but for the abrupt resignation of the then navy chief D K Joshi who quit after a series of naval accidents curing his watch.

Joshi&’s unexpected departure halfway into his term put Dhowan on the escalator to the top and he became navy chief. Now, if the buzz in defence circles is to be believed, he is on course to becoming the chief of defence staff.

The post has been under contemplation for many years but no government has had the will to create it because of fears that it would upset the balance of power in the defence forces. It is believed that the Modi government has decided to take the bull by its horns and appoint one of the service chiefs as head of the defence forces.

Dhowan may be the lucky one because of his seniority and formidable networking skills. If he is indeed appointed chief of defence staff, he is likely to get two, maybe even three, more years in service. Now, how lucky is that!

Land bill caution

Political circles are waiting with bated breath to see whether the Modi government re-issues the contentious land ordinance. It has lapsed because it was not passed by Parliament. The bill is now with a joint parliamentary committee which is supposed to submit its report at the start of the monsoon session of Parliament.

So far the government has desisted from re-issuing it. There appear to be two reasons for the hesitation. One is the opposition from within. Many BJP MPs from rural areas as well as various RSS-affiliated organisations do not want the Modi-fied land bill.

But the second reason is Rashtrapati Bhavan. The government is not sure whether the President will sign the ordinance again. After it was re-issued a second time during the mid-session break of Parliament in March, the matter was challenged in the Supreme Court. The SC has issued notices to the government.

It seems the President may have cautioned the government on the issue because of the controversy.

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