Modi’s Independence Day speech
It was always expected that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would use his Independence Day speech as a sort of summary of the achievements of his government and a vision statement of its plans for India ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for the middle of next year. He did just that, touching upon every key issue and addressing every key electoral constituency, from women, to farmers, to small businessmen, to the poor, but there was a larger message in his speech. In fact, there were three larger connected messages, linking Mr Modi the person (the first message) with his government’s plans and projects (the second message) even as they set both apart from leaders and governments of the past (the third message).
The first message was on the man and his intentions. Yet again, Mr Modi sought to define himself as a leader who is in it for the sake of the country and its people, characterising himself as impatient and restless because he wants India and Indians to catch up with the rest of the world. The second message straddled two dimensions. The first was the welfare one, in which the PM spoke about the raft of schemes launched by his government, with special mention reserved for one it would soon launch, a health insurance scheme called Ayushman Bharat that will cover 500 million people for Rs 5 lakh each. The second was the reforms one, where Mr Modi spoke about the hard decisions his government has taken, which people in and close to the National Democratic Alliance have often described as indicative of the man’s willingness to stake his political capital on really big things.
The third message was about how, while pursuing its objectives, this government placed a premium on honesty and delivery. By dwelling at length on the performance of the United Progressive Alliance government, and contrasting that with the National Democratic Alliance’s, Mr Modi sought to establish that the country has made tremendous progress under his leadership. Indeed, his message between the lines was that more could have been achieved had he inherited a country in better shape. There were other messages as well — including the one on the manned space mission which, while not exactly being India’s “we choose to go the moon” moment, will enthuse scientists and engineers and is good for the cause of science in India — but these were the big three.
Mr Modi’s fifth Independence Day speech, the last of his first term as PM, wasn’t as aggressive as some of his earlier ones, but it was still a considered electoral pitch which, while emphasising this government’s achievements, and setting it apart from the previous government, also focused on all that remains to be done.
The not-so-subliminal messaging was on the identity of the individual and the party best equipped to do these.