Following the success of the January 2019 release of Uri, a Bollywood movie based on the surgical strike India carried out inside Pakistan in 2016, the prime minister was seen using the catchy line “how’s the josh?” (How’s the spirit?) from the movie.

During election season, he called upon Bachchan and actor Shahrukh Khan, besides producer-director Karan Johar, to help spread voter awareness.

When Modi’s not borrowing Bollywood movie lines, he had films like The Accidental Prime Minister and PM Narendra Modi allegedly promoting him or his party’s political line, especially in the months leading up to the 2019 elections. The latter film, along with some others and a web series on Modi, were put on hold by the Election Commission of India till the elections were over.

The icing on the cake was Modi’s interview by Bollywood star Akshay Kumar at his official residence in New Delhi, in which he discussed the lighter side of being a prime minister, including his taste for mangoes. Experts say this was a bid to throw the soft light on the Indian prime minister ahead of polls.

The press evader

The interview with Kumar particularly riled Modi’s critics for evading critical issues that ought to have been raised. All the more so since the prime minister has never addressed a press conference during his entire five-year tenure.

At the one press meet he finally attended last week, he refused to take questions, passing them on to BJP chief Amit Shah instead.

Yet, he has regularly given one-on-one interviews to sections of the media, many of which were ridiculed by critics as being scripted. In April 2015, the French newspaper Le Monde said it had refused to run an interview with Modi after he sought the questions in advance.

Given these conditions, the prime minister’s media appearances have remained limited to television channels that are seen friendly to the government, or through one-way communication on programmes like the monthly Mann ki Baat monologue on the state-run All India Radio and social media. Interestingly, a sponsored television feed, NaMo TV, suddenly appeared in the runup to the elections, exclusively dedicated to promoting him—some say in violation of several regulations. The feed has allegedly disappeared from television screens just after the elections.

Modi, the gaffe-prone

Perhaps it is in Modi’s best interest to steer clear of hard questions, given the sneers he has evoked in the past.

Most recently, he was taunted for his remarks that he had pushed the Indian Air Force to continue the Balakot airstrikes despite the cloud cover on the planned day as he realised that India’s fighter jets won’t be caught on the Pakistani radar due to the overcast. Unsurprisingly, the comments sparked a troll fest on the internet.


And this wasn’t a one-off incident. In the past, the Indian prime minister has denied climate change.

Climate has not changed, we have changed. Our habits have changed. Our habits have got spoiled.

There’s more:

We worship Lord Ganesha. There must have been some plastic surgeon at that time who got an elephant’s  head on the body of a human being and began the practice of plastic surgery.

Now, as Modi embarks on his second five-year term, will there be an overhaul of the image he carefully projects for public consumption or will it be more of the same?

Read Quartz’s coverage of the 2019 Indian general election here.

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