" Modi, who created records in financial inclusion through the launch of Jan Dhan Yojana last month, sought to enthuse every individual in the goal of nation building, saying that it should become a national movement."
By Prashant Sood

New Delhi, Sep 5 - Prime Minister Narendra Modi Friday interacted with students from across the nation in an unprecedented gesture on Teachers' Day, seeking to send a political message about his ability to engage with them directly like Jawaharlal Nehru and keep up the momentum in favour of his 100-day-old government.

In the process, Modi also sought to build on his youth constituency that he had nurtured during his long election campaign and consolidate his personal image as a leader who has demonstrated in his 100-odd vision, empathy, humour and a strong grassroots connect.

Many of the students in higher secondary classes, who heard him speak and interact, will be voters by the next general election and the younger children are likely to carry memories of the interaction all their lives.

Modi's speech and interaction, telecast in schools almost in all parts of the country as also on national television, reinforced Modi's credentials as a strong communicator who engages with his audience directly and seeks to involve them in a larger goal. He reached almost every home without having to make an overt effort.

No prime minister in recent memory has interacted with students on Teachers' Day the way Modi did. Modi's interaction was in sharp contrast to the deadpan speeches of his immediate predecessor, Manmohan Singh. India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru had an abiding love for children and Modi sought to send that kind of a message.

While former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was known for his oratorical skills, he too did not interact as frequently with his audience as Modi does. In his address from the Red Fort on the Independence Day, Modi had described himself as the first servant of people.

Political commentator Neerja Chowdhury said Modi was a communicator par excellence.

It was an engaging communication. Children will not forget it. They are going to be voters so it is a huge captive group, Chowdhury told IANS.

She said Modi recalled instances of his childhood during his interaction and also sent a message that students need to preserve environment and electricity. Chowdhury said Modi also sought to send a signal that he will win another mandate and be prime minister till 2024.

She said the function was not overtly political and Modi conveyed his message subtly. With Congress criticising Modi government over its performance of 100 days, Chowdury said Modi had raised huge expectations and delivery will not be easy.

He has continued to generate momentum through his communication skills, she said.

Senior journalist S. Nihal Singh said Modi had sought to present himself as a jovial leader who cares for the young and the new generation.

It was an effective performance. The questions were very studied and that did not click but in general terms he performed well. He presented his softer, caring side, Nihal Singh told IANS.

The interaction on Teachers' Day also revealed some facets of Modi's personality.

Modi said he was a taskmaster and not headmaster and the answer appeared timely as there has been discussion in political circles in Delhi if Modi was acting like a headmaster in his government. Modi also talked of imparting requisite skills to reap the country's demographic dividend.

Modi also dwelt on his experiences during his recent visit to Japan, recalling how the education system there promoted character building and egalitarianism.

Modi, who created records in financial inclusion through the launch of Jan Dhan Yojana last month, sought to enthuse every individual in the goal of nation building, saying that it should become a national movement.

(Prashant Sood can be contacted at [email protected])


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