Was hugging ISRO chief an afterthought of Modi?

In an earlier footage, in which Sivan is seen breaking the news to Modi that the connection with the lander ‘Vikram’ of Chandrayaan-2 had been lost, Modi looked upset and cold

PM Modi after Sivan broke the news of losing link with Moon lander. Sivan (in white shirt) is seen being comforted by his colleagues. 
PM Modi after Sivan broke the news of losing link with Moon lander. Sivan (in white shirt) is seen being comforted by his colleagues.

NH Web Desk

A video of Prime Minister Narendra Modi hugging and comforting ISRO Chairman K. Sivan after the hopes of safely landing ‘Vikram’ on the lunar surface had been dashed went viral on Saturday.

Questions have been raised whether Modi really got swept away by emotions at that moment or he did it on purpose. The jury is still out on the matter.

However, in an earlier footage, in which Sivan is seen exchanging a brief word with Prime Minister Modi, purportedly informing him that the connection with the lander ‘Vikram’ had been lost, Modi looked upset and cold.

In this video Sivan’s colleagues are seen comforting him and accompanying him away as PM Modi is returned to his seat after a brief word with Sivan. Behind his stern countenance, PM Modi also looked a bit nervous, apparently in apprehension whether the link with the lander will be re-established or not.

Modi’s critics were quick to allege that Modi’s presence at ISRO headquarters indicated that he was trying to “hijack” the achievement of the team of scientists that had been working day and night to make Moon exploration a reality.

They wondered if the Prime Minister’s presence at ISRO actually distracted the scientists and put them under extra pressure. PM Modi had gone to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) headquarters in Bengaluru to watch the landing of Vikram on the lunar surface live.

The ‘hug’ video that went viral on Saturday was shot as PM Modi was leaving the and a team of scientists led by Sivan had come out to see off the prime minister.

Modi is seen pulling Sivan’s bowed head to his shoulder and patting him on the back in an apparent bid to comfort the senior scientist for his (and his team’s) perceived “failure”.

While the PM’s gesture was appreciated by a section of the public and media, a large section also criticised it. Space scientists are not school children who need to be comforted by elders after a dismal performance in pre-board exams.

Some people also questioned the reason behind creating such a hype around the event. Like any other scientific venture, there was no guarantee of 100 per cent success of the mission.

In fact, Sivan had himself said beforehand that landing on the Moon was a very complex and difficult operation and that the last 15 minutes would be most critical and full of “terror”.

The fact is, a large percentage of Moon landing attempts by the US, Russia and China – the only countries that have achieved this feat -- were unsuccessful.

So, the failure in this was expected and it was normal to expect it as in most scientific endeavours.

So why this drama? Was the hug contrived as a ‘transferred epithet’ in order to turn the public criticism following the failure after so much hype into sympathy? Or was it a genuine burst of emotions? There is hardly any conclusive answer to that. What we have at our disposal is the footage of some time back to draw an inference of our own.

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