Bollywood star Akshay Kumar interviews PM Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi sat down with Bollywood star Akshay Kumar for a “candid” interview, where the two discussed everything – except politics.
It’s unclear when the interview actually took place but it aired on the ANI television channel on Wednesday. It was filmed at the prime minister’s in Delhi.
The “completely non-political” – as Kumar put it – conversation has led to jokes on #ModiwthAskhay is one of the top trends in India.
Why does this matter?
It’s surprising because Mr Modi is known to avoid spontaneous interactions with the media. Televised interviews have been rare; and he has not held a single press conference in his five years as prime minister.
The casual tone aside, the interview was not really freewheeling because Kumar steered clear of anything remotely political or controversial.
We learnt a few new things about the otherwise reticent Mr Modi – he “enjoys” watching memes on himself; former US president Barack Obama repeatedly advised him to sleep longer; his very own remedy for a cold involves fasting for two days and putting mustard oil in his nostrils; and West Bengal chief minister and arch rival Mamata Banerjee sends him sweets and kurtas every year.
He also said he had never aspired to be prime minister; instead he wanted to join the army and “serve the nation”.
One user commented on how Mr Modi appeared to have narrated his biography to Kumar considering the Election Commission had held back the release of a biopic on him during the election.
On Tuesday, Shah Rukh Khan urged fans to vote in a music video
Well, Prime Minister Narendra Modi put out a barrage of tweets on 13 March asking famous Indians to “creatively” encourage voting.
And Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan obliged…on Monday, some five weeks later. He said he was sorry for the delay – but Mr Modi did ask for “creativity”.S
The Indian election kicked off on 11 April but it’s so long – it’s staggered over five weeks – that Khan’s appeal to voters may still work.
Why is this important?
Khan is a huge celebrity in India and one of the few that did not immediately respond to Mr Modi’s string of tweets in March.
It’s worth mentioning that the prime minister had gone all out when he tweeted at celebrities, even channelling his inner Bollywood. Our personal favourite is the tweet in which he punned on the iconic tagline from the 1990s’ Bollywood blockbuster Kabhi Kushi Kabhie Gham: “It’s all about loving your family.”
He tagged the film’s two male leads, Khan and Amitabh Bachchan, and its director Karan Johar, and ended with “It’s all about loving your… democracy”.
On Monday, any chance of a Congress-AAP alliance was doomed…
The main opposition Congress party named its candidates for six out of seven parliamentary seats in Delhi, ending the possibility of a coalition with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
The AAP, which is the ruling party in the Delhi legislative assembly, and the Congress had earlier talked about forming an alliance to fight Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
But with the Congress going ahead with its list, we will now see a three-cornered contest in Delhi.
The Congress named former Delhi Chief Minister, Sheila Dikshit, as its candidate for the North East Delhi seat.
Why is this important?
The AAP and the Congress both oppose the BJP, and analysts say a coalition would have avoided the splitting of opposition votes in Delhi.
But both parties couldn’t agree to a seat sharing agreement.
The first signs that their talks were failing came when Congress President Rahul Gandhi accused Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal of making a U-turn in a tweet on 15 April.S
In response, Mr Kejriwal had tweeted: “What U-Turn? The talks were still on. Your tweet shows that having an alliance is not your wish. I am saddened by your comment. Today it is important to save the country from the threat of Modi-Shah [BJP chief Amit Shah]. It is unfortunate that in UP [Uttar Pradesh state] and other states you are helping Modi by splitting the anti-Modi vote.”
…And PM Modi’s ‘nuclear button’ remark sparked outrage
At a rally in the northern state of Rajasthan on Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi referred to India’s nuclear arsenal, sparking a storm on social media.
“Pakistan keeps threatening us every now and then by saying, ‘We have a nuclear button’. Even if they do, they should know that India also has one. Do they think our button is for Diwali?” the PM said. Diwali is a Hindu festival of lights and firecrackers.
India is no longer scared of “Pakistan’s threats”, he added.
He also attacked the main opposition Congress party, saying that they were unable to curb terrorism when they were in power. “It is the Congress that has weakened the country. The BJP, however, is in a process to strengthen it,” he said.
Why is this important?
Mr Modi and the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have drawn flak in recent weeks for including India’s recent strikes in Pakistan in their election campaign.
Earlier this month, a row erupted over a letter from retired military officers urging President Ram Nath Kovind to ensure that political parties do not use the armed forces to “further their political agendas”.
Mr Modi has made national security the BJP’s number one campaign plank ahead of the vote, continuously accusing the Congress of being weak on terrorism.
National security has traditionally never been an election issue in India, but some analysts say that this strategy by the BJP could help galvanise voters and boost the party’s chances.
But Mr Modi’s latest remarks have prompted outrage on Twitter, with many calling them “flippant” and “unfortunate”.