Was PM Narendra Modi’s interview before live audience in Singapore scripted?

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s spontaneous interview, presumably before a live audience in a Singapore institute last Friday, turns out to be not only pre-scripted but a repeat of an earlier ZEE TV interview early this year.

PM Modi was responding in Hindi to a question on challenges faced by Asia, but his English translator’s rendering revealed that it was a pre-scripted interview, as she went on reading from a paper with facts and figures that were not part of his answer. It showed that the questions posed and his responses were not impromptu but part of an elaborately planned pre-planned script. Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Monday taunted in a tweet: “The first Indian PM who takes ‘spontaneous’ questions that the translator has pre-scripted answers to!” His sarcastic comment was: “Good that he doesn’t take real questions. Would have been a real embarrassment to us all if he did.”

Here is Modi’s answer in Hindi answer: “21st century Asia ki sabse badi chunoti hai. Kia hum Asia ke log aisa feel karte hain, ya nahin. Sunkar khushi ho rahi hai ki hamare bheetar bhi voh bhaav jag rahaa hai. Yes, 21vi sadi ko Asia ki sadi banakar rahena hai. Yes, ek bahut badi chunoti hai. Aaj bhi hum duniya ke aur bhubhago se itne prabhavir hain kyonki sadiyon se humne is prakash ki zindagi gujari hai. Isliye hamein bhi lagtaa hai ki haan hamari bhi bari hai, hum kuchh kar sakte hain aur humein karna hai.”

The translator rendered it almost right in English: “The entire world is now convinced that the 21st century belongs to Asia. The challenge is whether we feel it or not, whether we are happy listening to this fact or there is a belief within us that the 21st century belongs to Asia and we have to do it. We are still influenced by other parts of the world since this is how we’ve lived our life. That’s why we find it difficult to believe that we are capable of doing something and we will do it.”

But she did not stop at that as the paper from which she was reading had much more to say on what Modi thinks but which he did not speak. She went on: “Asia has seen the maximum rise in prosperity, opportunity and freedom in the world. Japan led the process, Asian tigers followed, China has become a major economy and it is India’s turn to progress now. Yet, Asia has many challenges, South Asia, South-East Asia in particular, have similar strengths and opportunities, weaknesses and challenges.

There are the following challenges that are common: Skills for the digital age, creating adequate jobs in the age of digital reception, agriculture, productivity, water, pollution, rapid and mass urbanization, sustainable habitats and affordable housing, climate change, protection of biodiversity, building sustainable infrastructure, affordable healthcare, protecting our ocean and blue economy These challenges require collaboration among governments, universities and laboratories. Policy interventions are important. A lot of finance would be needed, but given the scale and magnitude. We need innovation and technology to address these challenges. These should be the priorities of our governments.”

Modi also pretended that he was answering the questions extempore but it was apparent from the padding up in the translator’s answers that it was a pre-scripted interview with inputs from bureaucrats that were incorporated in English to project the Prime Minister as a great speaker. If the questions were spontaneous, how did the translator have pre-scripted answers? Rahul seized on it to express doubts about Modi’s ability tackle real questions when he said: “Would have been a real embarrassment to us all if he did.”

This coming from Rahul is audacious as his own capacity to effectively articulate his sentiments has been questioned by both Modi and the BJP, deriding him as a Pappu, no matter that he has addressed countless press conferences and tackled all kinds of questions from different audiences in institutions abroad and at home.

Rahul’s tweet is in a way his answer to Modi questioning his abilities during the Karnataka poll campaign, asking him if he could narrate achievements of the state government in any language, including in his mother’s, without looking at a piece of paper. Modi was then responding to Rahul’s challenge to let him speak in Parliament for 15 minutes.

At Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, Modi was interviewed before a live audience by NTU president Subra Suresh, in addition to questions from the audience. Suresh began by asking about the challenges faced by Asia and what it needed to do to address them. The scripted answer shows even the questions of Suresh were pre-scripted as in the ZEE TV interview.


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