Modi's I-Day rhetoric

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Independence Day speech was, beyond doubt, inspiring.

It was perhaps the first time since Jawaharlal Nehru that a prime minister was making an extempore speech from the ramparts of Red Fort on the Independence Day.

Unlike the rambling speeches of the late Jawaharlal Nehru, Modi's speech seemed well-prepared and was accessorized with rhetorical riches. Whether he would be able to walk the talk is the million-dollar question.

If in the campaign speeches he had ripped the then UPA regime limb from limb on just everything, in the I-Day speech he sounded conciliatory and ready to take the opposition along the consensus route.

The principal criticism against his otherwise inspiring speech was that he failed to show how his government was going to achieve the tall plans he announced from the ramparts. Which is why the opposition swatted it aside as another election speech signifying precious little.

The prime minister called for a moratorium on caste and communal clashes for at least a decade. Very well. Hopefully, all parties will steer clear of communal politics. But he should remember that he himself had climbed the communal ladder to secure power.

At his watch in Gujarat, close to 2,000 people were massacred in the cauldron of communalism in 2002 and he was and is adamant about not expressing a scintilla of guilt or regret. He should also remember how his saffron party tried to polarise society for electoral benefits.

Will his party break with tradition and swear off communal politics? Or will it revive it during elections?

It is a known fact that RSS and its affiliates are integral to the party and without the service of their foot-soldiers BJP would have hardly won the polls. In this context, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat's statement that 'India is a Hindu nation and its identity is Hindutva' is to be taken note of. The prime minister is, therefore, well advised to cleanse the Augean stables of his
own parivar.

Another thrust of Modi's speech was on the need to move the needle on the manufacturing front. He expressed his wish to make India a manufacturing hub and invited all concerned to 'Make in India'. As a matter of fact, this is not something new as it's the basic tenet of economic development. For any country to progress financially, it needs to facilitate production. It's easy to make high-sounding pronouncements but what is difficult is to put it into practice.

The government needs to prod manufacturers to invest in the country. It's good for Modi to cut back to the days when BJP was in opposition and how it stalled, on some pretext or the other, pretty much every move of the UPA government to ramp up investments here. The GST reform and the moves to raise the cap on foreign investments in insurance and other sectors were blocked on flimsy ground by the government party while it was in opposition.

It should now naturally expect opposition from the Congress party over several government moves. True, Congress's poor numbers in Lok Sabha is an advantage for the government.

But in Rajya Sabha it's a pretty different scenario.  Even so, Congress must lend its support to all the good initiatives of the NDA government.

There's a grain of truth in the running joke that the current government has no compunction in stealing the UPA clothes. Even so, one only hopes that Congress will rise above petty rivalry and join hands with the government on all issues beneficial to the people.

Modi's emphasis on cleanliness and toilets in all schools is indeed praise-worthy. It must also be recalled that the saffronites went ballistic when a then Congress minister had said the country needed more toilets than temples. Ditto the thrust on bank account for all citizens. It was also an initiative introduced by the UPA government (through Aadhar) but was rubbished by BJP.

Another important and welcome announcement the PM made was the dismantling of the Planning Commission which had been in place since 1950. The planning panel is to be supplanted with National Development and Reforms Commission which would be more federal in structure.  

The big question is how he will go about it as the contours of the new reform commission are yet to be shaped.

This is the reason Modi's critics say that his speech was, for all practical purposes,
pretty empty.    
The writer is a freelance contributor based in India. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman.


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