(Photo: Reuters)
(Photo: Reuters)

Opinion | From ramparts of Red Fort, citizen Modi reaches out

PM Modi called upon the ‘swabhimaan’ of Indian citizens to resolve the problems

At the crack of dawn on a rainy Independence Day of the Indian republic—its 73rd—it was citizen Modi engaging directly with the people. He called upon the “swabhimaan", or self respect, of its citizens to resolve the problems, iterating the syllable “s" as he went on to describe each term. During the 92-minute long speech—just four minutes less than his 2016 I-Day address—he first greeted the people for the twin festivals, including Raksha Bandhan, and followed it up with a quick “thank-you" to the janta, i.e., the voter. This election, he said, wasn’t about Modi. “Desh ki Janta-Janardan ye chunaav lad rahi thi apne sapnon ke liye (the people were fighting this election for their dreams)," he said. Mera desh badal sakta hai—change we can.

From this note of optimism, he went on to define his earlier tenure, between 2014 and 2019, as one where the priority was to fulfil the basic needs. The second term, he said, was for fulfilling the aspirations of the people, or “aakankshaaon ki purti". Without much ado, he spoke of the fact that he has wasted no time after the elections, and fulfilled some important promises made to the people within 10 weeks of assuming office. One of the most important steps of his government was to abrogate Articles 370 and 35 A—the premise for a special relationship of the state of Jammu and Kashmir with the Indian Union. History has been restored he averred, as finally one nation has one Constitution. This was a fulfilment of Sardar Patel’s incomplete dream of an integrated republic—one where princely states were forced to give up their arguments for independence, and dominion status, and accede to the Indian republic. This, and the triple talaq bill, were arguable acts of an incomplete agenda of constitutional and social reforms, long held as core principles of the BJP’s political position. In an extraordinarily strong statement, he castigated his political predecessors—the Congress—in a tangential reference, as he said: “Hum na taalte hain na paalte hain (we neither dither on doing what needs to be done, nor harbour them)." Along with it came the much awaited organizational reordering of the Armed Forces, by providing for a Chief of Defence Services—an important leadership role meant to coordinate all three forces.

“I have come here to do what you want me to do. I have no personal agenda"—and then his reeling off the common man’s issues, and his vision to transform India. The priority will continue to be “gaaon-gareeb-kisan". The highest priority is to have drinking water for everyone, and conserve the country’s water resources, followed by the need for health for everyone. Then, even a call for war on plastic. And the need for social awareness and firm steps on population explosion—hinted subtly in his ample reference to “130 crore deshwasi"—an enhancement over his earlier reference to “125 crore deshwasi".

Among his big picture statements was the re-emphasis on the goal of having a $5-trillion economy. This remained as yet a vision statement, as he said, we need to produce for a global market, with an awareness of global standards. From a site of history, where India’s first war of independence was launched in 1857, it was citizen Modi all the way, conversing with his people, and stopping only as he realized that even times such as this have a formal limit.

Manisha Priyam is professor at the National University of Educational Planning and Administration and a political analyst.

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