Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Modi govt’s maiden media controversy Puzzling PMO response to media rumours, BJP prez Shah defends Rajnath Singh, home minister pleads innocence

New Delhi: The silent Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has sprung a surprise on Wednesday by issuing a short, intriguing and explosive statement on Wednesday, emphatically denying “reports appearing in a section of the media over the past several weeks, mentioning the Prime Minister, and referring to the conduct of some Union ministers, and alleged misconduct of the Home Minister’s son.”

This has left many wondering in the media as to the Union ministers are about whom stories have been done, or about the controversy surrounding Union home minister Rajnath Singh’s son. This is the first time that prime minister Narendra Modi’s office has openly refuted and denied media reports, without mentioning the sources. It should not come as a surprise that today’s “political storm” should be a prelude to the resignation of Rajnath Singh.

Meanwhile, wild speculation continues, and some of the Modi supporters are trying to blame Rajnath Singh for “leaking” the story to the media, and then forcing the PMO and BJP president to come out and defend him. It also seems probable that in this cloak-and-dagger drama in the BJP and in the government, it also seems probable that Rajntah Singh’s detractors want to harry out the home minister because he is seen as the only man who is still struggling to hold out against the domination of the Modi-Shah duo.

The PMO has been maintaining a stand-offish stance towards the media, not interacting with the print and television journalists ever since the BJP-led NDA government has taken over three months ago. It has become an impregnable fortress.

The PMO has used very strong, even harsh, language, saying, “The reports are plain lies, motivated and constitute a malicious contempt at character assassination and tarnishing the image of the Government.” It warned, “Those indulging in such rumour-mongering are damaging the interest of the nation.”

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah has also issued a statement in Hindi, noting the rumours in the media about the ministers based on what he called “kaalpanik aadhaar (imagined sources)”. Shah was eloquent in his defence of not just Rajnath Singh, but also his son Pankaj Singh, who is a secretary of the party in Uttar Pradesh. He recounted senior Singh’s career which included serving thrice as party president apart from serving as UP chief minister. Shah has also referred to the PMO statement. Again, Shah did not refer to any particular media story about the home minister’s son.

Rajnath Singh went public and said that he had assured Modi and Shah about these things and that they had dismissed the rumours. He offered to “quit politics” if there was any truth in the allegations against him or the family.

A party functionary said that the party was with Rajnath Singh, and that there was no truth to the stories about Rajnath Singh’s son.

For quite some time now, there has been talk in the capital and elsewhere about how Modi has been disciplining his cabinet colleagues and their errant sons. These were unconfirmed stories. There have not been informal media interactions either with the PMO, Union ministers, and at the party office for the last three months.

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