It was all over Twitter and Facebook. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi would be answering questions - live - through Google Plus’ Hangout. The time was 8 p.m (August 31, Friday).

But by the time the event began, it was well over 8.45 p.m. The reason, the response was so much that Google Plus reportedly crashed.

When the Hangout began, actor Ajay Devgn, the anchor, and Narendra Modi profusely apologised for the delay.

The response was expected, and the organisers of the Hangout ensured that some sort of discipline was needed. The questions had to be submitted beforehand and Ajay Devgn would moderate the chat.

No politically sensitive questions

The questions were quite harmless - about youth, education, rural uplift and perils of urbanisation. There was one on secularism and Narendra Modi took care he offended no one and stuck to saying what he considered as secularism. “Think that our nation must be on top in all respects. That is secularism, according to me.”

Some came straight to the point, while others, including a fawning fan from the US, gave mini speeches and wanted Narendra Modi to “come to the US as Prime Minister.”

He ended the chat with an invite to the Chief Minister to have “lunch, dinner or breakfast’.

The organisers seem to have ensured that there were no politically sensitive questions.

On education, women

There were questions about how urbanisation was affecting villages. Narendra Modi explained how he gave importance to rural uplift and how all the villages had uninterrupted power supply and broadband connectivity.

He emphasised the importance of education and said he had given importance to teachers’ education.

Replying to a question of the ratio of men and women, he said we had to learn from tribals where the ratio was in favour of women and detailed his Government’s moves to empower women. He said his Government had waived stamp duty for property transactions if the person buying the property was a woman, houses distributed by his Government were given in women's names.

Diet & Lifestyle

There was also time for some questions about his diet and lifestyle. Those in public life should be prepared to have a bad stomach. He said that being a bachelor, for 45 years, he had to almost beg for food every day. “Whenever I used to visit a house, I had whatever they could offer.” He preferred kichidis. “I don’t follow any diet, but I take care of my health through yoga,” he said.

A girl had a question about his famous kurta too. They were so good and popular, did he engage any designers? Narendra Modi’s reply was that he was the designer. As he had to do the washing himself till about 40 years, he found it difficult to wash long kurtas. He cut them so that they were short and, therefore, easy to wash. Short kurtas also occupied less space in his bag (as he was constantly travelling). “Now it has become a fashion. ‘Modi kurtas’ are being sold everywhere. My simplicity became a fashion,” he said.

Tackling criticism

On a question by a self-confessed woman fan on how he managed to stay calm in spite of criticism by media, he said he welcomed them, what happened in our country were not criticism, but allegations. He knew what he was doing, and did not bother about wild allegations by people who had vested interests.

When the agriculture growth in the country could not cross 3 per cent, Gujarat was able to record a growth of over 10 per cent and milk production had gone up by over 60 per cent.

Though Gujarat had surplus power, he had decided to invest in solar power to save the environment and Gujarat was now the largest producer of solar power in Asia. Though solar energy was expensive, by 2016, he was confident that the price of solar power would be equal to other conventional sources. Solar power panels over canals brought double benefits. Apart from producing power, the panels saved water from evaporating. His was the only State where there was a climate change department.

Narendra Modi was all praise for Google Plus, both at the beginning and at the end. He said technology had enabled people in different parts of the globe to talk together. He said preparations were done for the Hangout for more than a month and signed off saying "Google Plus was the pulse of the globe".

(This article was published on September 1, 2012)
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