Through the final Independence Day speech of this term Modi makes a pitch for re-election, but the story lies in the contrasts and similarities with his first as PM.
New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday set the narrative for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections by presenting a report card on the NDA government’s achievements in his fifth Independence Day speech from the Red Fort. But the real story of the government’s feats and lapses seems to lie in the similarities and contrasts between Modi’s speech on Wednesday and the one he delivered in 2014.
To talk about the contrasts first, Modi was silent on foreign policy this time, unlike in 2014, when he spoke about the presence of SAARC leaders at his oath-taking ceremony and pledged to fight against poverty together.
In his first Independence Day speech, he had called for a 10-year moratorium on all activities that could promote casteism, communalism, regionalism and discrimination on social and economic basis. Today, there was no mention of that moratorium, nor was there any reference to the violent incidents of atrocities against Dalits and minorities being reported from across the country.
He did, however, try to reach out to Dalits by invoking Dr B.R. Ambedkar and promising to ensure social justice for all.
The Prime Minister also referred to the passage of the bill giving Constitutional status to the OBC commission and said the last Monsoon session of Parliament was devoted to social justice and equality.
In 2014, Modi had vowed not to move forward on the basis of majority in Parliament and gave credit to opposition leaders, too, for the successful session then.
But today, talking about justice for Muslim women, Modi referred to the Triple Talaq bill and said “some people” (read opposition parties) were not allowing it to pass but the government would eventually pass it.
His clarion call in 2014 for “Make in India… Manufacture in India” was missing in 2019. And so was the incidence of suicide by farmers.
2019 like 2014
There are many similarities between the two speeches, though — to start with, the reference to the Constitution of India, Sri Aurobindo and the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
Another important point that Modi raised in 2014, figured in his speech even today — the incidents of rape across the country.
Then Modi had said, “When we hear about the incidents of rape, we hang our heads in shame…. My brothers and sisters, the law will take its own course. Strict action will be taken. But as a member of the society, as parents, we also have some responsibilities.”
On Wednesday, in the backdrop of nationwide outrage over Bihar and Uttar Pradesh shelter home rape cases, the Prime Minister said, “The rule of law is supreme for us and there can be no compromise with this.”
He again exhorted parents to inculcate respect for women in their children. Although he didn’t mention the shelter home incidents, Modi spoke of fast-track justice to rapists in the poll-bound states of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
“Hum tod rahe hain janjeerein, hum badal rahe hain tasveerein (We are breaking the fetters and changing the pictures),” he said, reciting a poem to sum up the NDA government’s achievements and claimed that they would have taken 100 years to complete if one worked at the pace of pre-2014 India.
Modi also spoke of the low, middle and high middle classes, the OBCs, the women, and the youth in his 90-minute speech to try to strike a chord with all sections of society.
Among the achievements he cited were surgical strikes on terror camps across the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, a significant increase in the minimum support price for agriculture produce and the goods and services tax, et al.
“Everybody (in the previous regime) wanted to do it but was not able to take a decision,” said Modi, repeatedly referring to the change in Bharat’s image in the comity of nations.
Citing his government’s crackdown on black money, he said, “Desh mein imaandaari ki lehar chal padi hai (The wave of honesty has started in the country).”
For 2019, the template was complete: A decisive, strong honest, internationally respected Prime Minister who is “impatient”, “restless”, “eager” and “determined” to do a whole lot of things for every section of the society.