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The New Silent PM Narendra Modi

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silent-modi

When PM Narendra Modi becomes ‘Maunmohan’ 2

by Sandip Roy 

Silence please. The prime minister is working.

That seems to be the official message coming out of Race Course Road.

Narendra Modi, the candidate, could not stop talking. The need for communication was so strong there were even hologram versions of Modi fanning the countryside talking for him, chatting up a storm at chai pe charchas.

Modi the prime minister however has gone silent. Sure, he gives long vision speeches while launching a space rocket. He still tweets regularly about what he told the World Bank president about cleaning the Ganga, releasing a biography of Sardar Patel in Braille and his best wishes to India’s Commonwealth Games team.

But about the issues roiling the nation, the Parliament and his own party lately – Shiv Sena hooliganism and Sania Mirza for example – the prime minister has gone into radio silence. He could say these are non-issues, he could say these are trivial misunderstandings being communalized by a hyperactive media. But he chooses to say absolutely nothing.

Unfortunately his silence can get uncomfortably loud.

Manmohan Singh’s legendary taciturnity made him quite the butt of jokes. Like the one about a dentist urging the former prime minister “At least in my clinic, please open your mouth.” Even Modi took a few carefully-aimed swipes at the silence of that lamb. But now he seems to have taken a leaf out of “Maunmohan’s” book himself.

However there is an important difference between the silence of Manmohan Singh and the maunvrat of Narendra Modi.

As Monobina Gupta points out in Caravan:

The problem of Narendra Modi’s maunvrat (observing of silence) is complicated in a way Manmohan’s wasn’t. Perceived to be remote controlled, the latter’s refusal to speak was merely an act of following orders. But Modi is his own master.

This makes his silence a far more strategic silence, a silence of choice and convenience. It also sends out confusing signal at times when the need of the hour is firm clarity.

Take the Sania Mirza brouhaha. The BJP has been talking in all kinds of voices on that issue. Union minister Prakash Javadekar was quick to disown Telengana BJP leader K. Laxman’s comment about Sania Mirza as “Pakistan’s daughter-in-law”. He called her the “pride of India” and said “the BJP has no objection to her becoming the brand ambassador of Telengana”. Even Murli Manohar Joshi said reprovingly “If someone says this, it reflects his culture.” However BJP general secretary Murlidhar Rao did not disown Laxman’s remarks telling Firstpost‘s Sanjay Singh that Sania Mirza could both be pride of India and not the right person to be Telengana’s brand ambassador.

All of this back and forth just adds to the noise without clarifying anything. Is this about a disconnect between local leaders shooting off their mouth and the central government? Does Javadekar overrule Laxman? One word from Modi could end the controversy but he chooses to tweet about what he told the World Bank President about cleaning the Ganga instead.

His supporters will say Modi does not have to speak on every issue that gets talking heads in a tizzy on late night television. That is true. Modi should be focused on getting the country back on track instead of dancing to the press’ tune. That too is true. And it’s probably true the press is chagrined because not only does Modi not speak, he has, according to Rama Lakshmi of the Washington Post, instructed his colleagues “not to speak to reporters out of turn, to be wary of sting operations and not allow anyone into their offices with cellphones, or cameras, or even pens.”

It’s hardly surprising then that the press is pouting. Modi has also ended the practice of taking a large contingent of journalist on foreign trips.

Modi’s silence might be a signal that he is above the fray. But it is also allowing room for all kinds of interpretations, some clearly mischievous. Modi was lambasted for not speaking quickly and unequivocally on the Pune techie murder by a mob allegedly involving the Hindu Rashtra Sena fringe group. Firstpost editor-in-chief R. Jagannathanwrote that Modi has to accept that he and the BJP suffer from a “Muslim perception deficit.” While communal killings can happen under Akhilesh Yadav and Tarun Gogoi’s watch, it’s Modi who will find rightwing thuggery laid at his doorstep. “It may be unfair, but the world is unfair,” wrote Jagannathan.

Modi eventually did speak in Parliament where he included the techie murder in a laundry list of recent tragedies saying “whether it is the Pune killing, or the killings in UP, the drowning of students in Manali, the rapes of ours sisters… all these incidents must provoke us to look inwards and see answers.” But his initial silence does not help him because it allows those fringe right wing groups to take succour and assume quiet acceptance at the highest level and it allows his critics to say “I told you so”.

The Mirza case or chapatti-gate might not compare to an innocent techie being killed by a mob or girls left hanging from a tree in a UP village. But that’s all the more reason for the PM to nip them in the bud.

As Nikhil Inamdar writes in the Business Standard “(Modi) may’ve been an efficient communicator on social media, but has effectively shielded himself from any meaningful media questions. If under Manmohan Singh, there was an information deficit, under Modi there seems to be a dialogue deficit.”

In fact, one could say Modi, a man who likes to be in control, manages to use his social media hyperactivity as a smokescreen to avoid tangling with uncomfortable questions that might have no easy answers. It’s not dissimilar to his initial campaign strategy where his volubility on the campaign trail created an illusion of communication but it was entirely one-way. He steered clear of interviews until the very end when he was clearly the front-runner and the interviewers far more conscious that they were speaking to the man who could very soon be the next Prime Minister of India. Would you prefer watching a Salman Khan film or an Aamir Khan film asked one interviewer and that’s about as daringly off-script as it got.

The problem for Modi is no one had communication expectations from a Manmohan Singh or a Sonia Gandhi. They were not selectively silent. They were just all-round silent. But as Rama Lakshmi points out in the Washington Post Modi built a different image of himself.

He gave stump speeches, blogged, tweeted, Facebooked. India’s youths had finally found in the 63-year old Modi a leader fit for a generation of over-sharers and hyper-communicators.

Now it’s a different Modi – one on (selective) mute.

It’s fine to be the prime minister who would rather be known for his work than his talk. But sometimes talk is also part of work because otherwise, how we will know if Narendra Modi walks his talk?

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Canadian News

Joint statement from the Greater Toronto Area & Hamilton Mayors and Chairs

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Ontario Premier Doug Ford, left, and Toronto Mayor John Tory
Ontario Premier Doug Ford, left, and Toronto Mayor John Tory take part in a candlelit vigil to honour the victims of a deadly shooting in Toronto on Wednesday July 25, 2018. Ten-year-old Julianna Kozis of Markham, Ont., and 18-year-old Reese Fallon of Toronto were killed in Sunday's shooting attack, and 13 other people were injured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

We are united in fighting COVID-19 – protecting our residents and saving lives.

While the measures we have taken to stop the spread of the virus have made a difference, this virus has still taken far too many lives in our communities and continues to threaten the lives of our residents.

At the same time, there is no denying the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the economy. Jobs have been lost, many businesses have closed or are at risk of closure, and many families are worried about their financial future.

We’ve been hit hard but that’s why it is so important that we keep moving forward and come back as strong as possible.

Today, the GTHA Mayors and Chairs met to discuss the impacts of COVID-19 on the region and how our municipalities can work together on the economic restart and recovery.

We know the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area alone is projected to lose 355,000 jobs and 28% of GDP along with $894 million in lost wages and $3.7 billion in revenue losses for businesses. This will be felt right across the GTHA but it also threatens the provincial and national economies.

A strong recovery right here in the GTHA is crucial to healing the economic damage done by COVID-19 and helping the families and businesses all governments have been working to protect throughout this emergency.

Ontario’s economy and Canada’s economy need the GTHA to come back stronger than ever when the restart begins.

We are determined to deliver this recovery and we agreed today that the GTHA municipalities will be working together to successfully and smoothly reopen our vital regional economy when the time comes.

We also discussed how we can in a consistent way achieve significant, necessary financial support from the other governments to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and protect our ability to contribute to the recovery. A strong recovery needs strong cities and regional governments.

We have agreed we will work together to share information about our respective financial positions and explore together measures we can advocate to the other governments which will help to ensure the financial stability of local and regional governments in the GTHA.

Our child care and recreation programs help parents get back to work.

Our emergency services keep people safe.

Our transit systems get people to work and home safely.

Our major infrastructure projects – often built in conjunction with the other governments – will help kick-start the recovery and create countless jobs.

Our economic development activities attract jobs and investment.

We built a strong and vibrant GTHA and we know that we will need to come back even stronger and as quickly as we can in order to keep Canada’s economy going.

With the cooperation and support of the provincial and federal governments, we are ready to rise to this challenge.”

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Canadian News

Four People Charged in Mississauga Pedestrian Fail to Remain Fatality

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Investigators from the Major Collision Bureau have charged four people in Mississauga’s most recent fatal fail to remain collision.

On Thursday, February 15, 2018, at approximately 8:40 p.m., the victim, a 61 year-old female from Mississauga, was struck by a south bound vehicle as she was crossing Mavis Road in the area of Knotty Pine Grove in the City of Mississauga. The vehicle did not remain and the victim, having suffered major injuries, was pronounced dead at the scene.

On Saturday, February 17, 2018 shortly before 7:00 p.m., Satchithanantha VAITHILINGAM, a 60 year-old male from Brampton, and the driver believed to be responsible in this incident, surrendered to police at 22 Division. Satchithanantha VAITHILINGAM has since been charged with Fail to Remain Cause Death.

Hivissa SATCHITHANANTHAN, a 25 year old female from Brampton, Shajeetha SATCHITHANANTHAN a 28 year-old female from Brampton and Gowtham SATKUNARAJAH a 28 year-old male from Brampton have each been charged with Accessory After the Fact in relation to this incident.

Satchithanantha VAITHILINGAM will answer to his charge on March 12, 2018. Hivissa SATCHITHANANTHAN, Shajeetha SATCHITHANANTHAN andGowtham SATKUNARAJAH will answer to their charges on Monday March 26, 2018 at the Ontario Court of Justice in Brampton

Anyone who may have witnessed the collision, have dashboard video footage of the incident or who may have any information regarding this incident is asked to contact investigators with the Major Collision Bureau at (905) 453-2121, ext. 3710. Information may also be left anonymously by calling Peel Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), or by visiting www.peelcrimestoppers.ca or by sending a text message to CRIMES (274637) with the word ‘PEEL’ and then your tip.

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Canadian News

Justin Trudeau in India: Hug missing! Mounting pressure?

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The much publicized and anticipated visit of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to India was marred with questions. The questions were centered on the kind of welcome he would be given in the Sikh dominated state of Punjab. Also the famous hug by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was being anticipated. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau finally made his much-touted visit to India. He landed on the Indira Gandhi Airport, New Delhi only to be received by Gajendra Singh Shekhawat not even a Cabinet Minister in Narendra Modi’s government.

He is presently the second rank Minister of State for Agriculture.  That comes in complete contrast to the warmth that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his NDA government has generally displayed towards the visiting dignitaries.  Only a couple of weeks ago, when the heads of the 10 ASEAN states arrived in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi didn’t receive Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the airport, as he has previously done with many leaders including Barack Obama, Xi Jinping, Shinzo Abe, and Benjamin Netanyahu.

The fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi didn’t join him is all surprising even when Prime Minister Trudeau visited Gujarat. This is unusual because the Indian Prime Minister has set a trend that he always accompanies head of the state when they visit his home state.

Even Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath did not show up, let alone accompany Prime Minister Trudeau to the Taj. However, during Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s 15 January visit to the Taj Mahal at Agra, Yogi Adityanath had received Netanyahu and his wife and shown them around as well as hosted a lunch for them. For first three days, none from the executive or the elected representative held any meeting with the delegation.

Media in India is trying to spread a message that the cold treatment given by Prime Minister could be because two of the four Sikh members of Trudeau’s cabinet – Harjit Sajjan and Amarjeet Sohi – support the Khalistan movement. However, had that been the case his visit to Punjab would have got a similar response.  However, the Punjab Government led by Captain Amarinder Singh rolled out a red carpet during his stay at Amritsar and even the two leaders held some fruitful discussions.

Thus putting an end to those criticisms that that Prime Minister Trudeau’s visit was devoid of any warmth.  Chief Minister of Punjab Amarinder Singh, for instance who met Prime Minister Justin Trudeau setting aside his earlier prejudice that he exhibited during the visit of Defence Minister Harjeet Singh Sajjan.

In recent months, Gurudwaras (Sikh temples) in Canada, the United States and Australia have banned Indian officials from visiting gurudwaras and the moment started with Gurudwaras here in Toronto. Could that be the reason for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to not accord one of the warmest welcomes that he is known to provide?  Or the use by Canada’s parliament of the term genocide to describe mass killings of Sikhs in India in 1984 has left the Indian Prime Minister disturbed?  However, more than Prime Minister Modi, this could have left the Congress party in troubled waters, but that was also not the case as Amarinder Singh hails from the same party.

The lukewarm welcome to Prime Minister Trudeau can have its political ramifications too. Will it hamper the significant 2015 deal, in which Canada agreed to supply 3,000 metric tons of Uranium to power India’s atomic reactors?

Somewhere Prime Minister Modi has not taken the issue of non allowing entry of Indian officials to Gurudwaras and the statement on Genocide too lightly. Prime Minister Modi however has failed to understand that Canada cannot curtail the right of freedom of speech and expression of its citizen.

Two nations perhaps failed to resolve the matter before Prime Minister boarded the flight from Canada and not welcoming Prime Minister Trudeau could be a tactical decision to put pressure on him. With Prime Minister Modi preferring to meet him at the far end of the tour has conveyed a lot about the myopic approach of Prime Minister Modi.

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