Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Thursday addressed a hurriedly-called press conference to attack the Centre’s Narendra Modi government on the demonetisation debacle and the alleged scam in the Rafale deal.
This was his third press conference in a month as opposed to Modi’s refusal to do a single interaction with the media during his entire term as the prime minister since May 2014. Noticing the difference, journalist Rajdeep Sardesai wrote, “Interesting: @RahulGandhi has now done 3 pressers in a month where @PMOIndia hasn’t done one in years now! Maybe it’s easier to take questions when in oppn than when in power no?”
In contrast, Modi has often faced flak for suppressing dissent particularly in the media, thereby forcing news channels to turn into his propaganda platforms. Critics have often accused the news outlets of crawling before Modi and the BJP, a phenomenon last seen during the Emergency.
Only a couple of weeks ago, three prominent journalists had to lose their jobs allegedly due to their decision to hold the central government to account.
Rahul, while interacting with journalists on Thursday to attack Modi on the note ban failure and the Rafale scam, first deemed it fit to check the mood of his audience- journalists present in the room. He surprised the media persons with his introductory remarks, “Kaise hain aap, mood theek hai?”
This caused a mild laughter in the room as the Congress president continued, “My mood is always good. Are you writing without fear or you find yourself under some pressure?” By this time, the room was full of laughter as even reporters couldn’t resist joining others.
“There’s a general mood in the country that people fear speaking their mind. And even members of the press fraternity also feel that way. They work with some hesitance. But you have all our support,” Rahul added.
Rahul’s dig at the central government for suppressing dissent and criticism was also aimed at Tuesday’s extraordinary arrests of five known activists. Those arrested on Tuesday included Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, Gautam Navlakha in Delhi, Sudha Bharadwaj in Haryana and Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonzalves in Maharashtra.
The Congress president then went on to launch a tirade on the central government on the Rafale Deal and the spectacular failure of demonetisation. This was after the federal bank revealed that 99.3% of demonetised currency had returned to the banks.
While declaring the note ban on 8 November 2016, Modi had said that the announcement was to curb the flow of black money in the market. This week’s announcement by the Reserve Bank of India conclusively proved that Modi had pushed India into economic chaos on a false pretext.