Announces 25 September, Deen Dayal Upadhyaya’s birth anniversary, as the launch date for Ayushman Bharat.
New Delhi: Making the last Independence Day address of his current tenure, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a strong bid for re-election in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls as he sought to highlight India’s “transformation” under his government.
His speech lasted around 90 minutes – just short of his longest I-Day address of 96 minutes in 2016.
“In 2014, 125 crore Indians did not stop at just electing the government, they have got involved in building the nation. We are proud of what we have achieved and at the same time, we also have to look at where we have come from,” Modi said. “That is when we will realised the remarkable strides the nation has made.”
“If we had continued at the same pace at which toilets were being built in 2013, the pace at which electrification was happening in 2013, then it would have taken us decades to complete them,” he said.
“If we had continued at the same pace of laying optical fibre in villages as in 2013, it would have taken generations to do so. If we had followed the 2013 pace of giving cooking gas connections, it would have taken years to make them available to each household. The country has many needs and aspirations, and both central and state governments should relentlessly try to meet them,” he added.
PM Modi enters the election season facing not just the anti-incumbency factor, but also the possibility of a united opposition.
“Who did not want the passage of the GST, yet it was pending for years. Last year, GST became a reality. The OROP (one rank, one pension) demand was pending for decades. The people of India, our brave Army personnel had faith in us and we were able to take a decision on OROP. We will always take decisions in the interests of our nation,” he said.
In his welfare pitch – which has become a key narrative of his government ever since Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s ‘suit-boot ki sarkar’ jibe threatened to give it a pro-rich image – Modi laid out all of his government’s initiatives, from cooking gas to rural housing, health insurance, rural electrification and Mudra loans.
“The demand for higher MSP (minimum support price) was pending for years. From farmers to political parties to agriculture experts, everybody was asking about it but nothing happened,” he said.
“With the blessings of the farmers, the decision on MSP was taken by our government,” he added, referring to his government’s decision to raise the MSP to 1.5 times the cost of production.
“We are bringing in modernity in agriculture. Our dream is to make the incomes of farmers twice by 2022,” he added.
“Housing for all, power for all, cooking gas for all, water for all, sanitation for all, skill for all, health for all, insurance for all, connectivity for all – we want to take the country forward with this slogan,” the PM said.
He also announced the date of launch for the ambitious health insurance scheme – Ayushman Bharat, saying it will be rolled out on 25 September to coincide with RSS-BJP ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhyaya’s 102nd birth anniversary.
He mentioned the Swachh Bharat Mission, and claimed a WHO study had praised it.
Continuing his party’s outreach to the backward communities, Modi talked about his government’s Gram Swaraj Abhiyaan, which was launched to mark Bhimrao Ambedkar’s birth anniversary and focuses on villages with high SC populations.
“The Constitution of India, given to us by Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, has spoken about justice for all. We have to ensure social justice for all and create an India that is progressing rapidly: The recently concluded Parliament session was one devoted to social justice,” he said.
“The Parliament session witnessed the passage of the Bill to create an OBC Commission,” he added.
The PM claimed that his government’s achievements had ensured India was more respected and given greater weight on the global stage.
“India’s voice is being heard effectively at the world stage. We are integral parts of forums whose doors were earlier closed for us. From being seen as among the fragile five, India is now seen as the land of reform, perform and transform. We are poised for record economic growth,” he added.
Modi, however, steered clear of any mention of foreign policy, including the troubled equation with Pakistan.
Talking about his government’s initiatives to tackle corruption and black money, Modi said, “We will not forgive the corrupt and those who have black money. They have ruined the nation. Delhi’s corridors are now free from power brokers. In today’s India there is no place for nepotism.”
“Earlier,” he added, “there were around six crore beneficiaries of various schemes, we have stopped that. We are working in the direction of fighting corruption and black money.”
The Prime Minister also used the platform to push his government’s stance on the contentious issue of instant divorce, or instant triple talaq, among Muslims.
“The practice of triple talaq has caused great injustice to Muslim women. We are trying to end this practice but there are some people do not want it to end,” he added, a clear reference to the opposition’s criticism of the bid to criminalise the practice.
“I assure the Muslim daughters and sisters of the country that I will work to ensure justice is done to them,” he said.
The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017, or the ‘triple talaq bill’, passed in the Lok Sabha, was not taken up in the Rajya Sabha in the recently concluded monsoons session of Parliament.
On Jammu & Kashmir, where the BJP pulled out of the PDP-led government in June this year, leading to its fall, Modi said his administration did not believe in “goli or gaali (bullets and abuses)”, but in “hugging” people of Kashmir and taking them along, reiterating a statement also made in last year’s address.
Emphasising the need for the equal development of Ladakh, Jammu and the Valley regions – one of the BJP’s alleged grouses against the PDP was its bias to Kashmir – Modi said his party believed in former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s path of “insaniyat, Kasmiriyat, Jamhuriyat (humanity, composite culture, democracy)”.
The PM also claimed credit for the removal of the AFSPA from Tripura and Meghalaya and parts of Arunachal Pradesh in the northeast. The BJP is in power in all the seven sisters barring Mizoram, which goes to the polls at the end of this year.
“There was a time when the northeast felt Delhi was far. In the last four years, we have taken Delhi to northeast’s doorstep,” he said.
“We want to progress more. The country will neither stop nor get tired,” the PM said, as he concluded his speech, ending with a short poem, much like his NDA predecessor Vajpayee.