October 25, 2014 / 8:13 AM / 5 years ago

Modi takes tea, but no questions, in first press event as PM

Prime Minister Narendra Modi gives a speech at his lecture meeting hosted by Nikkei Inc. and Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) in Tokyo September 2, 2014. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/Files

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Prime Minister Narendra Modi took tea, but no questions, on Saturday at his first staged meeting with the press since coming to power five months ago, underscoring the delicate relationship he has with the fourth estate.

Modi said he wanted to strengthen ties with journalists and thanked them for reporting on a ‘Clean India’ campaign he launched recently by taking a broom to a rubbish-strewn street in New Delhi.

“The prime minister cannot pick up the broom alone,” Modi told invited journalists in New Delhi. “You have turned your pen into a broom, and I think this is a huge service.”

The 64-year-old premier has made extensive use of campaign speeches, glitzy policy launches and social media to propagate his message - he has 7.3 million followers on Twitter.

But his government has been criticised by commentators for being unwilling to face challenging questions. Five months after Modi took power, the prime minister’s office still has no official spokesperson.

After his short statement, Modi dived into the crowd at the office of his nationalist ruling party. Some journalists snapped ‘selfie’ photographs with him on their smartphones.

“Today we were seeing a different Modi,” Bhupendra Chaubey, executive editor of CNN IBN news, said from the ice-breaker event. “He’s trying to make a personal connect with the journalists here.”

Reporting by Zeba Siddiqui and Ratnajyoti Dutta; Writing by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Michael Perry

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