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Posted at: Jan 11, 2017, 10:05 PM; last updated: Jan 11, 2017, 10:06 PM (IST)

Rahul thinks media is ‘meek’ under PM Modi, says so

Rahul thinks media is ‘meek’ under PM Modi, says so
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi addresses at the party''s Jan Vedna Sammelan at Talkatora Stadium in New Delhi on Wednesday. — PTI

Aditi Tandon

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 11

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi provoked many journalists on Wednesday when he became a tad too candid about what he thought of the media under the rule of Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP.

“When Dr Manmohan Singh was Prime Minister and Mr P Chidamabram was Finance Minister, the media spoke freely (dil khol ke bolte the) but not any longer,” Gandhi said referring to retrenchments by a section of media houses post demonetisation and also to what he called a “general atmosphere of fear under BJP”.

Through his two speeches at Congress’ national convention against note ban at a packed Talkatora stadium, Gandhi repeatedly accused journalists of being meek, triggering latent protests in media benches.

“Some of my media friends come to me and tell things. They say we should understand. We understand the media’s nervousness. Ab hawa badal gai hai (now times have changed),” Gandhi said in his opening address today.

He was referring to demonetisation woes and insinuating that the media did not cover note ban consequences as freely as it should have. Journalists hearing him, however, protested sporadically saying even he would not have known what was happening due to note ban had TV channels not aired serpentine queues outside banks and ATMs.

Oblivious of mixed reactions to his speech, Gandhi went on, “While we understand your problems, you have a responsibility. I know you are under pressure. Some of you have told me.”

Few journalists expressed an urge to ask the Gandhi scion to name the ones that complained to him about restrained speech under the new dispensation.

Later in the day when Gandhi returned from a two hour lunch break to deliver the valedictory address to the daylong convention, he again teased the media for being too harsh to him.

“No matter what you write about me, I will never intimidate you…..We respect you (the media). Perhaps we respect you too much,” was Gandhi’s refrain.

The Amethi MP on the cusp of ascendance as Congress president was speaking in the aftermath of critical reports about his 11-day absence from the country when five states are due for elections beginning February 4.

The Congress leaders, too, have expressed concerns about Gandhi’s absence at a critical time when the party is battling an electoral drought.

Barring Bihar where it won in alliance with JDU and RJD, Congress has not won a single state by itself since the 2014 Lok Sabha election rout. Even this time, the party is facing tough rivals everywhere, with insiders wondering why Gandhi took off when the Congress was yet to decide tickets for Punjab, UP, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa.

As for Gandhi’s run-ins with the media, these are not new. Routine critiques on Gandhi, the reluctant politician apart, media was the one to reveal his South East Asian whereabouts during the much talked about “introspection leave” he took after party’s LS defeat in 2014.

Post that revelation, Gandhi has made it a habit to announce his travels publicly.

When he took off for a New Year holiday on December 31, last, he announced the same on Twitter. The return was however left to media to figure. That wasn’t difficult to determine since Congress’ Central Election Committee, which is yet to announce tickets, was awaiting his arrival. He came in on January 10, and the CEC met within hours of his return.

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