Wednesday’s speech will be the last of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s current tenure.
New Delhi: If he launches his government’s ambitious Ayushman Bharat scheme during his Independence Day speech Wednesday, as is widely expected, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will maintain a trend he began with his first address from the Red Fort on 15 August 2014.
Over the NDA government’s tenure, the annual ritual has served as a peek at the administration’s upcoming initiatives — from the Jan Dhan Yojana to the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and Start-Up India, the launch of several schemes has been announced from the ramparts of the Red Fort.
It was here that Modi first referred to himself as “pradhan sevak”, a term picked up by the opposition in several subsequent critiques, and where he asked a question rarely taken up in discussions on crime against women — parents restrict their daughters’ movements, but are the same questions ever asked of sons?
As Modi makes the last I-Day address of his current term as Prime Minister, ThePrint looks back at the highlights of his speeches from the past four years.
For his maiden Independence Day speech as Prime Minister, Modi arrived at the Red Fort in a kurta-churidar pyjama and Jodhpuri safa.
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In his speech, he highlighted the need for cooperation between the government and citizens of the country, calling himself a “pradhan sevak” who wanted to govern by sahmati (consensus) instead of bahumati (majority).
Indians were taken by surprise as he spoke of the need for toilets, especially for women, as he made a push for general sanitation, and promised to launch the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan on Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary two months later.
The Jan Dhan Yojana, which aims at bringing the economically weaker sections on the banking network, was also announced in this speech.
Length of speech: Over 65 minutes
Quote unquote: “I want to say to those youngsters who have chosen the path of violence that whatever they are and wherever they are, it is all because of mother India only that they have got it. Whoever you are it is all because of your parents. I want to ask you to think how green, how beautiful and how beneficial this earth can become if you shoulder the plough instead of the gun which spills blood on this land. How long shall we have bloodshed on this land, how long shall we take the lives of the innocent people and what have we got after all this? The path of violence has not yielded anything to us.”
He returned with the safa and kurta-pyjama, but added a Nehru jacket.
The speech was a progress report on his first year in office, and introduced the country to ‘Start-Up India’, a government push for budding entrepreneurs amid a surge worldwide in innovative businesses.
Length of speech: 86 minutes
Quote unquote: “If we meet a person wearing coat, pants, tie or we meet a great person wearing long kurta, jacket we salute him by standing in his honour. But if an auto rickshaw driver, pedal rickshaw puller, newspaper vendor or a milkman come to us, our feelings towards these poor men are not proper. One hundred and twenty five crore citizens of the country have to remove this deficiency of the nation by their resolution of mind. The persons due to whom we look good, who serve us good, no one is our better well wisher than them and therefore, dignity of labourers, honour of labourers, pride of labourers- this should be our national duty…”
The dress code was the same as 2014, but the speech stood out for its focus on Balochistan, the restive region in Pakistan that is at the centre of a secessionist movement.
In an unexpected mention, Modi said, “In the last few days, people of Balochistan, Gilgit, Pakistan Occupied Kashmir have thanked me, have expressed gratitude, and expressed good wishes for me.” As pointed out in a report in The Hindu at the time, the reference came days after he vowed to take up Pakistan’s alleged atrocities in the regions on the international stage.
It was the first time that an Indian prime minister touched upon the issue in an Independence Day speech.
The comment marked a significant shift in foreign policy for India, which had earlier adopted a more restrained stand on the matter.
Balochistan, where Pakistan accuses India of fomenting terrorism, has been Islamabad’s wildcard of choice whenever New Delhi has raised militancy in Kashmir.
Seeking secession based on ethnic differences, the Baloch people occupy the largest province of Pakistan bordering Punjab, Sindh, Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Afghanistan and Iran. The area is of immense significance to Pakistan, and there have been allegations of human rights violations by Pakistan in the region in light of the separatist movement.
Length of speech: 96 minutes
Quote unquote: “Brothers and Sisters, when we talk about the history of our freedom struggle, a lot is spoken about a few people. In fact, in some cases, it is more than necessary. But in our freedom struggle, the contribution of our tribals living in the forests was incomparable. They lived in jungles. We may have heard about Birsa Munda but there is hardly any tribal district which did not make sacrifices since 1857 till we got freedom”.
Dress code, same. Last year, making his address a month after Hizbul commander Burhan Wani’s first death anniversary, the PM talked about the Kashmir Valley.
Modi said the long-standing Kashmir dispute had to be solved by embracing Kashmiris and could not be resolved with gaali (abuse) and goli (bullets). The PM said development and progress in the Valley was a shared responsibility of every Indian citizens.
He also talked about the benefits of the goods and services tax, launched just the month before. However, citing complaints penned by citizens about his long speeches in letters to him, Modi kept it brief.
Speech length: 56 minutes
Quote unquote: “I would like to appeal to all countrymen that at that time (under British Raj) our motto was ‘Bharat Chhodo’ and today’s slogan is ‘Bharat Jodo’.”
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