The PM asked media to focus on the issue of democracy in political parties

A few hours before journalists met at the Press Club of India to protest the attempts to browbeat the media by BJP governments, the scene at BJP headquarters presented a picture in contrast.

Members of the media lined up to see, be seen with, shake hands with and click selfies with the top man of the party in government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The occasion was the annual Diwali Milan when the PM, who has otherwise shunned media and loathes to address press conferences or give interviews – he has given only two since assuming office – comes down to oblige fawning journalists.

He did, and the waiting journalists acknowledged the gracious favour with smiles and lingering, protracted handshakes which the SPG man accompanying the PM frequently had to intervene to break up, catching hold of the hand and pushing it away. All this, while others were getting ready to assert the independence of the fourth estate and its role and responsibility to the people without fear or favour, to act as a check on government authority.

It was a repeat of the earlier occasions when, too, some journalists put themselves on ignominious display and the behaviour was criticised, hence this time they can be spared the defence of not knowing how to conduct themselves and the dignity of their profession.

Earlier, the PM had his one-way dialogue with the media. He told journalists there were “practical problems” due to which he was not able to meet the media often.“There are hopes from the both sides. There are complaints from the both sides. But I think it is our professional hazard. We have to find a middle path to move forward, smilingly,” he said.

“I recall how I used to spend much of my time with you… Most of you are from the same generation. Getting nostalgic is natural. There were no barriers, no difficulties then,” he added.

He said the media has expanded so much now that it was difficult to meet all journalists. “There were only a few in your fraternity. And the circle has become so big and media itself has so evolved in so many ways… It has posed us a challenge in maintaining contact and maintain openness. There is no problem with intentions, the problem is practical,” Modi said,

He said understanding each other further strengthens the relationship and mutual belief.

“My experience says that everyone performs duties formally. But informally everyone has something to contribute to the nation. They (journalists) tell us about bottlenecks… tell us where we need to improve. You guys travel a lot,” he said. Modi said he could also identify some media who criticise for the sake of criticism.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also urged the media to debate democracy and the democratic values of political parties for transparency in the evolution of their leadership and in their recruitment.

“You (the media) show us what we need to focus on. Democracy in political parties is something that the country is adapting to. We need to have transparency in the recruitment that political parties do. How the leadership of a political party evolves? What kind of opportunities are given to new generations. Do democratic values form the core of their values. It should become an issue of our debate and deeply so,” Modi said in his address to the media at the BJP’s annual Diwali Milan here.

“Democracy in political parties is a subject more people should know more about. It is true that the funding of political parties is a point of media discussion and many things come out in the open. But overall, how they are formed, how they function, how they recruit, their values, their ideologies and their weaknesses, what is the reason behind such weaknesses… all this should be debated,” he said, adding that political parties evolving “with a true democratic spirit is necessary for the country, necessary for a democracy”.

He appreciated media’s “positive role” in making the Swachh Bharat Mission a success, despite criticizing the government over other issues. “Half of the newspaper pages would be filled with the government’s criticism. But when it comes to the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, all are on the same page. I thank each one of you for making it a personal mission.”