Narendra Modi on Friday attended his first press conference as prime minister in the closing hours of the 2019 Lok Sabha election campaign. He concluded his address to the media by saying that he finished the task assigned to him by the party with the same degree of enthusiasm from the beginning to the end. He further said that with campaigning over, he would again engage himself in governance work.
Modi's arrival at the press conference was a surprise to most mediapersons gathered at the BJP headquarters on Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Marg in New Delhi. The BJP’s invite for the press conference was in the name of party president Amit Shah. It is possible that the party did not want to create hype around Modi's presence, and that it wanted to make things slightly easier for those visiting party offices around that hour, journalists and party workers included.
Modi had come straight to the party headquarters after landing at the airport. He was earlier at Khargone in Madhya Pradesh, where he addressed the last rally for the Lok Sabha election.
The prime minister has visited the party headquarters on numerous occasions earlier, but those occasions were party meets, felicitation programmes and occasional informal interactions with mediapersons. However, this was the first time, not just since 2014 but since he became the chief minister of Gujarat, that he came to the hall meant for daily press conferences, and addressed the media.
With campaigning having ended, Modi looked very relaxed, yet confident about the outcome of the poll process. He essentially sought to convey two messages. The first one was that he is going to return to power with the BJP getting a full majority on its own, and thus, the policies of his government will continue. The second one was that he is a dedicated party worker who abides by party discipline. He sought to send the message that while he may have come to the party office to address the media, he would not hijack a press conference of his party president (even if the latter is his protégé).
On two occasions, he directed questions addressed to him to Amit Shah, saying that in the BJP, the party president is supreme and thus he cannot speak ahead of him. The message was directed more towards his party leaders and workers, in the context of the party having issued a show-cause notice to Bhopal candidate Pragya Singh Thakur for her statement on Nathuram Godse. Modi tried to convey that party discipline is supreme, no matter how high one may be.
Ahead of the final phase of polling in 59 seats, Modi displayed confidence that he would return to power with a majority on his own. While one can say that this was aimed at maximising votes in the BJP's favour, it could also lead to complacency among his workers and supporters. Modi would have taken this into account.
On Friday, Modi was already talking about how his next government might function. He appears to be following the same working style as when he was the chief minister of Gujarat from 2001 to 2014. Although he did not outline his priorities, he said that the government would initiate policies for public welfare, and take the country to a new high. Further, by saying that he would return to governance work, he suggested that he would not take rest with the end of campaigning.
The prime minister further said that unlike 2009 and 2014, this time, the IPL tournament was held in the country despite the election process being on at the same time. He claimed that due to the governance model he pursued, the IPL, elections, board examinations, Ramzan, Easter, Hanuman Jayanti, Ram Navami and other such events could happen together without any obvious hassles.
What Modi seemed to enjoy talking about most was satta (betting) in 2014, and he claimed that all the money staked in betting was lost as the BJP secured 282 seats, much more anyone had ever thought. He quipped that after 17 May, 2014, the "era of honesty began."
It was unprecedented for a prime minister to come to a party office on the conclusion of campaigning to address the media. In that sense, Modi made a new beginning.
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Updated Date: May 17, 2019 21:44:07 IST