With just one more phase to go for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections to end, political leaders are busy reaching out to the media to get their messages across to the voters.

Since he took charge five years ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been criticised for failing to hold a single press conference and for barely speaking to the media – even during crucial events like his decision in 2016 to demonetise 86% of Indian currency.

However, election season seems to have made Modi more willing to sit down for interviews. Over the last 40 days, the prime minister has given interviews to several newspapers and television channels. He has spoken on a range of subjects, from the manner in which he eats mangoes to his “raw wisdom” during the air strikes on Pakistan.

Here are some of the interviews that have attracted attention.

  1. In this interview to the Indian Express that is more an attack on the media and civil society than the political Opposition, Modi talks about Delhi’s “Khan Market” gang, an euphemism for liberals, and the alleged bias of newspapers against his government’s achievements. 
  2. Speaking to the Hindustan Times, Modi claimed that the Lok Sabha elections are fought between “those who stand with “tukde-tukde” gang  [an entity that is purportedly working to break India into pieces] and those who stand with the armed forces”. He also defends his attack on former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, quoting several instances when Congress and other leaders have called him names.  
  3. The air strike on Pakistan in February has turned into one of the central themes of the election campaign. The Bharatiya Janata Party has used the attack to claim that Modi is the only person capable of offering a strong responsde to Pakistan-sponsored terror. The party’s campaign has used the armed forces for election propaganda, leading to several complaints to the Election Commission of India. The commission, however, has given clean chits to Modi. In this interview to News Nation, Modi talks in detail about the economy and his plans for his second term. He also revealed the “raw wisdom” he provided the Air Force when he was told about the bad weather on the day when air strike was carried out on Balakot. “The clouds could actually help our planes escape the radars,” he told the experts.   
  4. In this interview to CNN News 18, Prime Minister Modi countered the allegations of corruption made by the Opposition in the Rafale deal. Taking exception to Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s remarks that he is a “thief”, he claimed that the Congress leader’s own advisors “told him that Rafale does not resonate as a political issue”. He also predicted that his party would win a mandate bigger than 2014.  
  5. To the India Today network, Modi chose to use the format of an interview on the sidelines of his campaign in West Bengal rather than a sit-down chat in the studio. After Uttar Pradesh, Bengal is the state in which Modi has addressed the largest number of public meetings. In the interview, Modi takes on West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and the harsh language she has used against him. Since her dream of leading a coalition government at the Centre will fall flat, she has reacted angrily against everyone: Modi, Lord Ram and Maa Kali, Modi claimed. He also criticised at the Congress for its role in the 1984 anti-Sikh violence. 
  6. Perhaps the most talked-about interview of the season was the “apolitical” one that Modi chose to do for the ANI news agency with actor Akshay Kumar. Does Modi eat mangoes and if so how does he eat them? Does Modi get angry? What has he planned to do after retirement? 
  7. After the apolitical interview with Akshay Kumar, news channels started tagging their interaction with the prime minister as “political interview”, like this one on Zee News where Narendra Modi exhibits great confidence that the BJP and its allies will form the new government. He even asked the interviewer if the channel has made plans to cover the swearing in. 
  8. Modi also moved beyond Hindi and English to reach out to voters of others states. In this interview to Tamil publication Dinathanthi, Modi answers the question of why unlike Rahul Gandhi who has contested from Wayanad in Kerala, he has chosen not to enter the fray from a constituency in South India