Narendra Modi’s unsettling silence on the disturbing events of the past month

30 June 2014

The “story”—as some journalists in the newsroom would say—is often hidden in silences, in unspoken words. In our contemporary hyper-communicative age, it often lies in un-tweeted tweets and un-posted posts. Words unsaid are often more potent than words uttered; the hushed silence is sometimes louder that the sounds of politics.

Over the past few years we became used to the esoteric political culture of silence nurtured by leaders of the erstwhile ruling Congress. The former prime minister, Manmohan Singh, pledged himself to the sanctity and comfort of a decade of near silence; Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, appeared wordless most of the time; her son, Rahul, broke his protracted and confounding silence only at intermittent intervals—and that too at his own peril.

All in all, the past decade could justifiably be defined as one of official silence, even as the noise outside—in television studios, newspaper columns and even on the streets—peaked continuously. The equilibrium shared by the loftiness of the silence and the pedestrian-ness of the noise was disrupted with the anointment of Narendra Modi, India’s sixteenth prime minister. Moving to the centre stage of Indian politics in the aftermath of what seemed like the loudest political event in ten years, Modi pitched himself as the speaking, tweeting, communicating prime minister.

Monobina Gupta is a senior journalist and author based in New Delhi.