Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed his party workers at the grass-root level in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry on Wednesday, when he joined carefully selected group of bhakts (disciples). Modi’s die-hard supporters are usually referred to as bhakts.
The BJP’s official YouTube account posted Modi’s interaction with his supporters with headline, “PM interacts with booth workers from Puducherry, Vellore, Kanchipuram, Viluppuram & South Chennai.” 30.49 minute-long video went unnoticed as only 7,000 views even hours after his live interaction was streamed on YouTube. What also went unnoticed in the video was Modi’s discomfort in the face of an unusually tough question from one of his bhakts.
After speaking his supporters, gathered in Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu, the camera on the screen shifted to Puducherry, where, just like Tamil Nadu, a carefully selected groups of supporters had gathered.
Addressing them, Modi said, “I was fortunate to visit Puducherry earlier this year. Puducherry is very beautiful and has become a tourist spot. Who wants to talk from Puducherry?”
Several men with stoles with BJP symbols around their neck rose, but the mic was handed to a man, who identified himself as one Nirmal Kumar Jain. He began his question with praise for Modi and how he was changing India. Reading from a script, he said, “Honourable Prime Minister, I am grateful that I got the opportunity to speak to you. My question is that the work you are doing to change the country is indeed a good step. But the middle section (class) of people think that your government is only busy collecting tax in all manner and in all ways.”
He didn’t stop here and continued, “They did not get the relaxation they were hoping for. For example in IT sector, loan processing procedure and bank transaction fees and penalty, they are feeling shortcomings (of your governance). It is my request that give respite to the middle class, which is the root of your party, same as you take care while collecting tax from them. Thank you.”
PM Modi was clearly not expecting this question from one of his die-hard supporters. He tried to cause laughter by saying, “Thank you Nirmal ji, you are a trader, so you will naturally talk about trade. We are in favour of looking after common people and we assure you that.” But, seeing no reaction from his audience, a visibly uncomfortable Modi looked to his left in exasperation before announcing, “Chaliye. Puducherry ko vanakkam!” (Watch from 14 minutes onward).
One of hardcore BJP supporter daring to ask Modi a tough question is an indication of growing discomfort even among the trading community, which has historically supported the saffron party. Perhaps the party’s defeat in the Hindi heartland consisting of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan has emboldened even the hardcore Modi supporters to raise their voices against the government’s questionable economic policy.
Up until now, PM Modi and his government have faced criticism from the opposition parties for its economic policies such as demonetisation and the rollout of the GST. With hardcore Modi supporters grilling the prime minister even in an orchestrated BJP event shows the extent of anger prevalent against the central government.