Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the silver jubilee celebration of National Human Right Commission, in New Delhi,
File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi | Atul Yadav/PTI
Text Size:
  • 4.4K

The irony is Narendra Modi used to mock his predecessor, Manmohan Singh, for his silence, calling him ‘Maunmohan’.

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi assumed office in May 2014, he kept thinking that he was new to Delhi and people believed he would take a year or two to understand the intricacies of the government’s functioning. After a month in office, he revealed that the thought did not exist in his mind any longer. He took no time to figure out the snakes-and-ladder games played in Lutyens’ Delhi.

Over four years since then, trust Modi to predict the next moves of the veteran players of this game, but the latter still seem clueless about his game. What else could explain the haste to declare the political epitaph of union minister M.J. Akbar in TV studios and newspapers!

He was widely anticipated to be the biggest catch of the #MeToo movement, but he just dismissed all the allegations of sexual harassment against him, giving it a political colour by linking them with the general elections a few months away. Akbar’s (read Modi’s and Amit Shah’s) decision to brazen it out should come as no surprise. When was the last time Modi or Shah sacrificed a trusted lieutenant under pressure from opposition parties?

Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh had exposed their vulnerability by sacrificing then-external affairs minister Natwar Singh in the alleged oil-for-food scam early in the UPA’s first term (in December 2005). Having tasted blood, the BJP, the principal opposition party at that time, went on to force the Congress leadership to drop union ministers and chief ministers – Shivraj Patil, A.R. Antulay, Ashok Chavan and A. Raja – among others. Sonia Gandhi is said to rue those decisions now. Modi and Shah learnt their lessons from her ‘mistake’.  Nobody in the NDA government or the BJP can do any wrong now.

And that explains Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s silence, yet again. He hasn’t said a word on the #MeToo movement, not even to defend Akbar.

Also read: By removing M.J. Akbar from his government, Narendra Modi must do our dirty job

He was silent when BJP leaders and sympathisers in Jammu were holding marches in support of the accused in the rape and murder of an eight-year-old child in Kathua. He was silent when there was a nationwide outrage over Yogi Adityanath government’s inaction against rape accused and BJP MLA from Unnao, Kuldeep Singh Sengar, despite the rape survivor’s attempted suicide outside his residence and the alleged murder of her father.

Modi spoke on these incidents after weeks. That’s the norm, not an aberration. His responses to controversial incidents, especially the ones involving those associated with the BJP or the Sangh affiliates, have been usually belated, often indirect and vague, and at times evasive.

Modi as well as the ruling BJP’s entire central leadership have chosen to look the other way as BJP leader and actor Kollam Thulasi declares that women who dare enter Sabarimala temple should be “torn into two pieces”. They did the same when external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj was at the receiving end of trolls, many of whom are said to be followed by the Prime Minister.

The irony is Modi, when he was aspiring for the top job in Delhi, used to mock his predecessor, Manmohan Singh, for his silence, calling him ‘Maunmohan’. Singh’s political mentor, former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, was known to speak through his silence. Interactions with Modi’s ministerial and party colleagues familiar with his thoughts and views on different issues suggest that his silence is not strategic as Rao’s was. It’s not blithe indifference either. The reason is a mélange of factors –past experience, strong self-preservation instincts, combativeness, and confidence or self-belief bordering on conceit.

Also read: The curious silences of Modi: Kathua rape not the only case where PM chose not to speak

Under persistent attack from the media, the intelligentsia, civil rights activists and political adversaries since 2002 post-Godhra riots – which started when he was barely 20 weeks in office as the Gujarat chief minister – Modi has developed deep apprehension about them.

When violence broke out at Bhima-Koregaon in Maharashtra early this year, he didn’t react although it involved Scheduled Castes whom the saffron party has been aggressively wooing. That was because of the belief at the top echelons of the government that it was a “bunch of JNU people”, and not commoners, who were trying to instigate them, an insider shared with this writer.

Similarly, the Prime Minister maintained a prolonged silence when four senior judges of the Supreme Court in January virtually rose in rebellion against the Chief Justice of India at that time. “Some media people then asked why he was not intervening. But if he said or did something, the same media would say ‘look, Modi is interfering in judiciary’. He knows the Delhi media,” said the insider.

The media, the ‘JNU people’ (broadly, the section of the intelligentsia who are perceived to be Left-leaning), the NGOs, and the opposition parties have all come to be seen – and projected – as purveyors of half-truths, if not outright falsehood. If the Prime Minister starts responding to every issue raised by them, he would be “playing into their hands”, say his lieutenants.

There is a pattern to Modi’s silence. When he himself is under attack from the opposition – say, on Rafale deal or Sahara diaries – he lets his ministers do the talking. He maintains prolonged silence when the BJP’s political interests are at stake, for instance the Kathua incident, which local BJP leaders sought to use to mobilise the majority community in Jammu, or the Unnao incident involving a BJP MLA. And when he does break his silence, it’s confined to generalities – “our daughters will definitely get justice”. The BJP hasn’t expelled Kuldeep Singh Sengar, the Unnao rape accused, from the party yet.

Also read: Is mandatory clause a smoking gun to make Rafale BJP’s Bofors or an opposition stretch?

Despite all the controversies and public outrage over a host of incidents, Modi has remained Teflon-coated. Veteran politician Sharad Pawar may be right that people have no doubts about his intentions in the Rafale deal. In fact, none of the allegations levelled against Modi by the opposition seem to have stuck. Surveys still find him the most popular leader in the country.

But the Prime Minister better start breaking his silence on issues agitating the minds of the people. A common refrain during conversations at tea stalls, restaurants and in metros nowadays (not in air-conditioned drawing rooms, mind you) is: “Modi is good, but he is surrounded by the wrong people”. And, that’s not a flattering assessment of a government six months before the next general elections.

Check out My543, our comprehensive report card of all Lok Sabha MPs.

  • 4.4K
14 Comments Share Your Views


  1. It is surprising that the writer has written so much about and he also writes that Modi does’t want to play into the hands of media. That is exactly what he is doing. Is it not? If, he speaks the media will start writing and broadcasting without any substance, but only gossip news and that is what they are doing now at present. He is simply avoding that and speaking only at right time.

  2. The writer from d starting biased for decoding, but writer never wrote about ra8ncoat pm, neways was it a decoding or blaming or seeing in one way, secondoy who is the writer to get rid of PM Modi.. it shows pure mentality of Madamji ghulams.. nevertheless dese high funded prof will rise at d tym of election n will go 2 ashes aftwr its over.. decoding, first of all writer shud decode himself den start writing ,giving a tag prof doesnt means he is right in all aspects.. sarcasm..

  3. Prof PK Sharma, Freelance Journalist,Barnala (Punjab)

    Whatever RSS, BJP may claim at this juncture that Modi’s popularity weighs and matters in the national politics and polity too but it
    remains a stark reality that the aspirations and hopes of the masses stand dashed to the ground !Though Modi may have climbed many ladders of popularity and Amit Shah made BJP the largest political party in the world in terms of quantity certainly not in terms of quality, yet ironically nation is the ultimate loser in the entire bargain as well as exercise of almost four and a half years !

    Experience it is said is a great teacher ! Unfortunately, the poor and hopeless performance during two consecutive terms of UPA Government under the stewardship of Dr. Manmohan Singh spared political space for Modi to exploit the same creating a hype tempting and trapping electorate with rhetorics, elocution, ploys and theatrics for effecting a qualitative change in the lives of the
    natives of India ! This hype did lit a ray of optimism among the Indians of all hues but it was too short lived proving to be only a flickering !

    There is now no fun or logic in repeating the wrongs, drawbacks, flip-flops and gross failures on various fronts- be it economy,
    affordable quality education, affordable standard health care system, farmers distress, poverty, insurgency in the Kashmir valley
    communal tensions, erosion of institutions, moral values and dismal foreign policy !

    The residents of India cannot claim and pin point with dignity and grace that India has advanced and excelled in any walk of life though pro- BJP and Modi supporters may exaggerate or boast of making remarkable achievements !

    The author of this article Mr.D.K.Singh at the very outset reveals the thoughts and apprehensions of Modi being new to Delhi ! Then people’s belief regarding NaMo taking one to two years to understand the intricacies of running government and PM’s assertion of mastering the same in a couple of months ! But objectively perusing this assertion of Modi, one can safely observe and conclude that it may have offered Modi a lot of self – contentment but nation on the whole did not gain owing to this mastery anything worthwhile !

    Had NaMo really understood the people of Delhi very sharply and instantly, BJP would not have suffered a crushing and humiliating defeat at the hands of Aam Aadmi Party- a political outfit “just in its infancies” in Delhi Assembly Polls 2015 ? Once speaking in Parliament,Modi himself claimed that it was a Herculean Task to study NaMo ! But now experience narrates a very disappointing, paradoxical and gloomy tale of various tall claims and counterclaims made either by NaMo or BJP leadership !

    Most dejecting angle of almost four and a half years of NDA rule has been, that at no time, neither NaMo nor BJP Chief Amit Shah did
    admit any lapse or strive to learn any lesson from the past blunders or wrong doings ! Moreover, none of the BJP leaders or leaders of ally parties could dare to point out the same in the best interests of the nation ! For example, the Bullet Train Concept in India, the Smart Cities Concept and Demonetisation Pitfalls !

    NaMo and Shah both have been a victim of complacency and superiority complex ! NaMo’s claim that India proogressed by leaps and bounds during four and a half years of Modi regime only and Amit Shah’s longest leap at the September, 8 BJP National Executive meeting in Delhi that BJP would rule India for next fifty years bear testimony to the fact regarding all this ! They never made any attempt to involve opposition parties of the nation to seek their opinion, suggestion and build consensus on sensitive issues of national importance at any moment as if these parties belonged to Pakistan, Singapore or China !

    There is no denying the fact that national interests have been sacrificed at the altar of individual glorification and party’s (BJP)popularity ensuring interests ! Winning polls, power, pelf and personal popularity has been the sole aim and religion of the BJP and duo of NaMo-Amit Shah !

    Now a time has come when India can rid itself of authoritarian, megalomaniac, whimsical and totalitarian rule only if voters of India do not repeat the blunder of the year 2014 falling into the trap of Modi rhetorics, ploys, guiles, theatrics, elocution and utopian promises !

    They must create a new and innovative narrative in 2019 at the time of hustings !

    Prof PK Sharma, Freelance Journalist
    Pom Anm Nest,Barnala (Punjab)

  4. If you expect The Prime Minister of India to react to some absurd speech of a person like Kollam Thusali whose name is not heard outside Kerala he will not have time to do his job.
    He is alert on matters that needs his intervention.His meeting today with CEOs of Petroleum Companies is an example.
    {Incidentally Thulasi himself has said that he is not a member of B.J.P.Even if he is a member there are others to handle such silly matters.}

  5. Mr Modi looks upon himself as a “consultant”, and not actually as a “in-saddle leader”. He “makes suggestions” through grand speeches and everyday-launch of impressive schemes, and gets disinterested in the process of SEEING those suggestions followed through. He thinks he has done his job. Now the ball is in the ministers and babus’ court. Then he puts on a new set of clothes, and hops on to an aeroplane to go someplace where he will always be centre stage.

    I am not being sarcastic, but this is my honest assessment of Modi ji. That’s why he feels “disinterested” in any negative things happening in, what is otherwise supposed to be, HIS DOMINION. That’s why he feels no need to “comment” on any negative happenings — that is the job of the “administrator”, he is a “consultant”. But he is always at hand to take credit for anything good that has happened — this too is a trait of EVERY CONSULTANT, if you have observed them from close quarters. Remember, the Mangalyaan? He inaugurated it within months of assuming office, but to this day he does not forget to make a mention of it whenever he gets a chance to list out his government’s achievements.

    But then why was he successful in Gujarat as a CM? Well, that was perhaps because Gujarat is basically a rich state.

  6. modi as a PM makes big announcements of good intentions in the last four years. The ground realities are far from what has actually been achieved. His most popular Swach Bharat which is financed by a cess, is being touted with big numbers of toilets built etc but most have them have no water or power or are not used. This same yardstick of lack of actual real progress on the ground is true. He announced that ” all villages” have power – number given was 18000plus – but the criteria was that only the Govt offices or buildings were given power while distribution to the whole village was not done. But over a lac villages were provided by the previous Govts and he just completed the process. The reasons for this lack of performance is partly due to inexperienced ministers both centre and at State levels where people are selected because of their RSS links. Besides quite a few fringe elements to RSS are possibly responsible for most of these incidents. Even after the riots in Gujarat, his silence spoke louder than actual words. The question remains to be answered if RSS compulsions force him to be silent.

  7. it is no good to suffice that “Modi is teflon coated..”..we have all read it too often and know that ….now move forward from there and try to answer why is he so ? not that you guys do not know …but it is politically incorrect to write it…so first collect your courage and moral authority and truthfully answer why Modi continues to be the most popular leader …

  8. A government is enriched – also enlightened – by engaging constructively, consistently, occasionally combatively, with the media. The national media has been more supportive or at least deferential to this government than to any other, so there is no justification for treating it as an adversary. The same could be said for the intelligentsia – dismissing them as natural adversaries accentuates the effects of a talent crunch. The NGOs do a lot more good than harm; little is gained by tarring all of them with the same brush. It is not the opposition’s job to shower rose petals; however, the numbers in May 2014 gave the government the confidence, though not the conceit, to have carried them along, conferring LoP status was a small courtesy, getting useful legislation passed, starting with an early, orderly rollout of the GST. 2. This fairy tale of Washington being a swamp that needs to be drained plays out well on the campaign trail. Once in office, an administration needs to work the levers of power, to get useful work done. Few Presidents end up achieving all that they had planned to, but that is because the prose of governing is more prosaic than the poetry of the election. If there is a widespread feeling that the achievements have not measured up to the promise of the mandate, the reason could well be a bunker mentality of seeing too many adversaries to be subdued, not allies to be wooed at least for the limited purpose of achieving worthwhile results, starting with the economy.

  9. In my opinion, the only thing that matters to Modi and Amit Shah is winning elections. If the various events have no impact on the number of votes BJP will get, then they do not consider it worthwhile to respond to them.

  10. There are incidents of corruption like Vyapam in Madhya Pradesh, Lalit Modi and Vasundhara in Rajasthan, Mob Lynching in UP , Jharkhand and Bihar , Modi’s silence is also seen as tactical support.
    As said in Sanskrit: ” Maunam sweekaram lakshyati” My silence is an approval .

  11. The headline of this article says “Decoding the silence of Teflon-coated Narendra Modi”. Where is the decoding? All you have done is the aggregation of all the issues on which PM should have spoken! We already know them. The article was supposed to provide some rationale or logic behind the silence. Wasted my time.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here