Dr Parakala Prabhakar speaks to TNM all about his new video blog, about being critical of the government while being the finance minister’s husband.

An image of Parakala Prabhakar from one of his YouTube videosScreenshot from video
news Interview Monday, May 03, 2021 - 19:33

On February 25, Dr Parakala Prabhakar, a well-known political economist who is based out of Hyderabad, announced on social media that he would be starting a weekly video blog. He said the videos would be more of a conversation and would be called ‘Midweek Matters’, largely featuring conversations on politics and economics. On March 3, Dr Prabhakar put out his first video and it was titled Modi Vs Sardar Patel. In the weeks that followed, he spoke about digital news turning into a new spectre that is haunting the present government. He also spoke about the Vizag Steel Plant, the COVID-19 crisis, the government’s handling of the pandemic.

In around two months, Dr Prabhakar has put out around 10 videos. The last two videos that he released, which were about the COVID-19 crisis, its numbers, and how the centre is lacking accountability, was an instant hit among viewers. The video posted on April 21, which is titled ‘Covid Surge, National Numbing & Accountability’ garnered around 387k views as of May 3.

Speaking to TNM, Dr Prabhakar said he thought of doing a weekly blog as he wanted to express his thoughts about issues related to public policy and political developments especially in relation to polity and economy. “My friends began to ask me why I don’t do something regularly. They asked me to do something as frequent as every two days, but since I have to work as well to earn a living, I decided to do a video once a week. So, on the weekend I spend time preparing and thinking about my research. By the time the video is put out, it becomes the middle of the week. Hence, I decided to call it ‘Midweek Matters,’” explained Dr Prabhakar.

Dr Prabhakar, who was an advisor to the Andhra Pradesh government from 2014 to 2018 during Chandrababu Naidu’s tenure, says most mainstream media is compromised. “This is one platform where things have to be called out. If I chose to write, I would need a platform to publish it. Mainstream media is compromised and afraid. They are dependent on the government. The visual medium is more relatable to the people and has more impact,” said Dr Prabhakar.

When asked why a person who hasn’t been very vocal about his criticism of the BJP is now on an all-out attack, Dr Prabhakar said, “I had written an article in a popular newspaper too and it was an attack on the government. Previously when I was with the government in Andhra Pradesh it wasn’t proper for me to be critical openly but everybody knows my views for a long time.”

Dr Parakala Prabhakar is married to Nirmala Sitharaman who is presently the finance minister in the Union government. Recently, several news websites have Dr Prabhakar’s videos highlighting how the finance minister’s husband has criticised the government. Speaking about this, Dr Prabakar said, “The media often takes that stand on a lot of things. Also, it is natural for everybody to take a reference through a known person. People have different reference points; this is one reference point that is often used. I don’t take offence to it, but it isn’t a very pleasing thing as well.”

In the early 2000’s Dr Parakala Prabhakar was a spokesperson of the Andhra Pradesh unit of the BJP. He was also associated with Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam party. It was only in 2014 that he became associated with the TDP government in Andhra Pradesh.

When asked how difficult it is to openly criticise the Union government when your partner is part of the same government, Dr Prabhakar said, “We are all mature enough to understand different points of view. That has never been a challenge. Even during the bifurcation of the state, BJP took a different line and I took a different line, while the BJP was for division I stood for integration. That has never been a challenge for me.”

Speaking about the criticism, feedback and encouragement he has been receiving for his videos, Dr Prabhakar said, “Every citizen in our democracy should assert their right to call out the power. We must also be ready to speak truth to power. When power doesn’t speak truth to us, we have to necessarily speak truth to power. With NITI Aayog, ICMR, Health Ministry etc, the government has no dearth of advice and suggestions, the point is that they are not listening. There is no point in giving suggestions, but we need to call out that the government is failing in its fundamental duty of approaching this problem in a systematic way.”

‘Midweek Matters’ though released on YouTube is available as a podcast too and is available around 15 podcast platforms. “The response I have received has been encouraging. My next video is going to be about the state election results and what implications they will have for the Indian economy. I will continue to take up some important topics to converse about,” said Dr Prabhakar.

Discussing the technical aspects that he has to tackle, behind the lens, Dr Prabhakar said, “I fix the camera on my own, I do everything as well. Putting the video together is also done by me. I am not very good at it but I have been able to manage. It isn’t a professional thing; I want to keep it as a citizen kind of approach.”

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