In the carefully curated edition of ‘Pariksha Pe Charcha‘ Tuesday, Modi tried to endear himself to children, akin to India’s first prime minister.
New Delhi: He may be a consistent and vehement critic of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and most of what he stood for, but Narendra Modi also seems keen to model himself on the man who was popularly known as ‘chacha’ Nehru.
Nehru was known for his love for children and his bond with them, thus earning him the title of ‘chacha’, a favourite uncle.
PM Modi may not have managed a similar moniker yet, but seems keen to display his connect with children, his ability to gel with them and emerge as their favourite.
The prime minister’s ‘Pariksha Pe Charcha’ — an interaction with students, teachers and parents to talk about exam-related stress as well as other aspects of student life — is an unabashed effort in that direction.
Its second edition was held Tuesday in a packed Talkatora Stadium in the national capital.
The first ‘Pariksha pe Charcha’ was held in February last year, just days after Modi’s book Exam Warriors, another attempt to become a ‘children’s PM’, was released.
Nehru’s popularity among them is such that his birth anniversary is celebrated as Children’s Day in India.
Modi, meanwhile, for all his opposition to Nehru, his politics and his political dynasty, seems to have no qualms taking a leaf or more out of his book.
Referring to the Townhall as “mini India,” Modi Tuesday tried to don multiple hats — friend, philosopher, mentor and a kind, understanding elder to the young students — all the while doling out casual advice.
The effort of wanting to play these multiple roles was more than visible through the nearly-two-hour-long interaction.
Consider some of his remarks during the carefully curated programme.
“The idea behind this is not for me to give advice to anyone. I just want to live like all of you for a few moments,” the prime minister began.
“I cannot say do not be totally relaxed before an exam. But, ask yourselves, if this is an exam of your life or is it just an exam for a particular grade like Class X or XII? Once you know the answer to this, your pressure will reduce. There is life beyond exams as well,” Modi said.
“I would request parents — do not expect your children to fulfill your unfulfilled dreams. Those parents who try to do so fail. It is important to recognise that every child has his or her own potential and strengths,” he added.
Evident in these statements is Modi’s desire to endear himself to children — to seem like the elder who understands them and wants to be more of a friend than someone who preaches.
“Our learning cannot be reduced to exams only. Our education must equip us to face various challenges of life as well,” said the PM.
Essentially, Modi harped on the fact that while schools and exams were significant, they weren’t all-important — yet another takeaway from Nehru who maintained schools, while useful, don’t teach everything.
“As they grow up, unfortunately, their natural freedom is often eclipsed by teaching and behaviour of elders. At school, they learn many things, which are no doubt useful, but they gradually forget that the essential thing is to be human and kind, playful and make life richer for ourselves and others,” Nehru had said once.
Message to parents
Modi also made it a point to send a message about parenting techniques and how right upbringing without undue pressure is crucial.
“Parents should not make the report card of their children their own visiting cards because if that is the aim, then the expectations from children become unreal. Some parents behave as if their children’s failures wreak havoc on their social lives,” he said.
This was yet another attempt to echo Nehru’s views, who also used to emphasise the importance of right upbringing.
“The children of today will make the India of tomorrow. The way we bring them up will determine the future of the country,” the late PM used to say.
The ‘in-sync with times’ PM
Not only did Modi try to be the compassionate mentor, he also seemed keen to essay the role of a leader in sync with times and aware of the latest fad among children.
When a concerned mother said she was worried her child was distracted from studies and was spending more time on online games, Modi quipped, “PUBG wala hai kya?”
With this, he showed off his awareness of the new craze among children — the online multiplayer video game — something several in the older generation may not have heard of.
In yet another instance, he said, “The PlayStation is good but never forget the playing field.”
There is a paradox in Modi’s attempts to be like Nehru in this aspect, considering his fairly undisguised dislike for everything Nehru — from his handling of the country as the first PM, to his economic policies, to what he believes to be a westernised and elite outlook apart from a culture of dynastic politics.
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the prime minister himself have taken several digs at Nehru and his legacy, even suggesting how Sardar Patel should have been the first PM instead.
In his election rallies, there are frequent critical mentions of Nehru.
“Those who went around wearing a rose had knowledge of gardens, but they had knowledge neither of farming nor of the sweat of the farmer,” Modi had said in early December during a rally in Rajasthan ahead of the assembly polls there.
While he did not name Nehru, the reference was obvious — only one of many such instances.