Confident PM reaches out at press conference

By Syed Zarir Hussain, IANS
Wednesday, February 16, 2011

NEW DELHI - From being authoritative and candid, bold and modest, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was a bag of mixed emotions during his press conference here Wednesday.

The interaction with editors of national, regional, and international TV channels at the prime minister’s 7 Race Course Road official residence was planned for 45 minutes, but with Manmohan Singh willing to take up more questions from the inquisitive journalists, the meet went for a full 70 minutes.

When the prime minister was asked if he wanted to resign after the myriad corruption charges against the government, Manmohan Singh was prompt in saying a “big no”, in a tone laced with a fair amount of conviction.

But the prime minister sounded rather dejected and there was a literal hint of resigning to his fate when asked pointed questions about “corrupt officials and ministers” surrounding him.

Some compromises need to made in coalition politics and that is a reality, he said in a tone that did not match his earlier answers, which were quite authoritative.

That was not the only time when Manmohan Singh looked anguished.

I have no doubt in my mind that the level and quality of governance need to be improved and also no hesitation in admitting we made mistakes. But I am not that big a culprit as has been made or projected, the prime minister said.

There were some tense moments though, with an editor of a national TV channel asked by the prime minister’s media adviser Harish Khare not to make the interaction into an “interrogation session”.

On at least three occasions, the prime minister literally requested the media not to just highlight “negative” issues but also project the “good work” of the government.

We must all work together with a spirit that bodes well for the country’s growth and progress, Manmohan Singh said.

And at the end of the interaction, the prime minister made it a point to individually convey his customary “Thank you” to the journalists.

And in doing so, the prime minister made it known which TV channels he watches as he went closer to the editor who had been politely nudged on the “interrogation session” and asked him to also project the positive aspects - a short conversation that took some of the other journalists off guard.

In a way, the Television Rating Point (TRP) war among rival channels Wednesday reached the prime minister’s doorsteps with Manmohan Singh making it known which TV channels he watches, even as editors of 20-odd channels tried outsmarting the other by way of going live soon after the interaction.

One of the editors of a Hindi channel was more than frank in asking the prime minister as to whether he gets time to watch the channel he represented.

Manmohan Singh politely said he hardly gets time to watch TV.

Whether or not the prime minister scored some brownie points by way of this interaction is another matter, but the editor of the TV channel, owned by a prominent media group, who was asked to also project the positives, was delighted: Rightly or wrongly, the prime minister does watch our channel, he said gleefully.

Now what remains to be seen is the impact of the prime minister’s televised press conference on the TRPs of the channels that were represented.

(Syed Zarir Hussain was at the TV Editors interaction with the Prime Minister. He represented News Live, a satellite TV Channel from Guwahati, where he is also the IANS special correspondent. He can be reached at

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