New Delhi: “How many press conferences did the prime minister address in last four-and-a-half years?" The government is searching for an answer to the question asked by a Rajya Sabha member, and is expected to submit it during the ongoing winter session of Parliament.

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has asked various government departments to send a list of press conferences they have held since the National Democratic Alliance government came to power at the centre, sending officials in a tizzy to dig out old press invites.

“We know this will not provide an answer to the question asked. But we are compiling the list as directed by the PMO," a government official said, requesting anonymity.

Modi has faced criticism from many quarters for not holding a single press conference during his tenure as prime minister. Congress president Rahul Gandhi on 5 December tweeted: “Dear Mr Modi, now that campaigning is over, hope you can spare some time for your part-time job as PM. Btw its been 1,654 days since u (sic) became PM. Still no press conference? Some pics from our Hyderabad PC today. Try one someday, it’s fun having questions thrown at you!"

On 7 December, when a journalist asked Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah about Gandhi’s tweet of not addressing a single press conference, Shah avoided the question saying party spokesperson Sambit Patra will answer to Gandhi later.

Congress has been highlighting the aversion of Modi from taking questions from the media. “I come to face you, whatever you want to ask me, you ask. You make PM sit here (press conference) and ask 3-4 question on Rafale, he will get up and run away. He will not be able to sit here," Gandhi said, while addressing the media on 25 October.

Even former PM Manmohan Singh has highlighted the PM’s aversion to address press conferences in the run-up to the Karnataka election earlier this year. “PM Modi has not held a press conference in the last four years. This is a sorry state of affairs," Singh said on 7 May.

That said, Singh did not have a sterling record either when it came to addressing the media. During his decade-long tenure as prime minister, between 2004 and 2014, Singh held three press conferences (one in the first tenure and two in the second) although he used to interact with the media during his foreign tours.

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