The Narendra Modi government has set about streamlining the new dispensation’s engagement with the media. A senior minister told Business Standard that all ministers, more particularly the first timers, have been advised to restrict their tweets as also comments to the media to the domains of their ministries. Officials said ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad and Prakash Javadekar will be the spokespersons for the government.
The unwritten “advisory” comes after controversial remarks by Minister of State in the Prime Ministers’ Office Jitendra Singh on Tuesday. Singh had reportedly said the Modi government could move to repeal Article 370. He had later claimed he was “misquoted”.
On Thursday, Home Minister Rajnath Singh looked a bit annoyed at the huge presence of media outside his ministry. Across the road, South Block occupant External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj asked her officials to convey to media that she wasn’t available for any interviews. After speaking to media thrice in North Block as finance minister and once in South Block as defence minister on his first day in office, Jaitley politely turned down requests for sound bytes and interviews on the second day. As media chased him till he got into his Toyota Fortuner, Jaitley made it clear that he would not comment in the corridors.
A sense of unease was visible in the interactions with senior bureaucrats on Day 2. After making presentations to their ministers on the first day, many officials had informally briefed the media on the new minister’s reaction and comments on various issues. But on the next day, no one was willing to speak on behalf of their bosses. “I can speak for myself. You should ask the minister,” said an otherwise media-savvy senior official when asked about the minister’s reaction on specific issues raised in their presentation.
On Thursday, orders were issued to security personnel not to allow TV cameras outside the gates on the Raisina Hill, which houses ministries of finance, home, defence, external affairs and also the PMO. It isn’t known whether the orders were for security reasons or to keep ministers away from TV cameras.