Through his first Independence Day speech of his second term, Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought to frame his next five years as a journey to fulfil the aspirations of the people after having attended to their essential needs during the previous five years.
Also, he invoked legislation against Triple Talaq and stripping Jammu and Kashmir of its special status under Article 370 during the first 10 weeks of his government as an example to suggest that there was no complacency after winning elections for a second term in office.
“Things that could not happen in last 70 years have been achieved during last 70 days,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted referring to Articles 370 and 35A to suggest to the nation that his government is neither going to procrastinate on the problems nor will it pander to them.
References to legislation against Triple Talaq and stripping Jammu and Kashmir of its special status under Article 370 early on in his over one-and-half-hour long speech appeared a signal not only to BJP’s electoral support base but also to the public at large that the government, with an enhanced fresh mandate, is determined and decisive to pursue its convictions.
Though largely drawn from his address to the nation on the issue of stripping J&k of its special status under Article 370 last week, Modi used the Red Fort to assert that the country has achieved “one nation, one Constitution” but also reminded that now it was the responsibility of everyone across the country to fulfill the dream and aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Speaking to the nation under overcast skies, the Prime Minister appeared mindful of the shadows of the economic slowdown but did not dwell at the headwinds faced by the economy. Instead, he used the address from the Red Fort to assuage his government’s outlook towards the “wealth creators” in the economy and assert that the economic fundamentals are strong to instill some confidence in the markets as he reasserted his confidence of making India $5 trillion economy in next five years.
Speaking to the country, the Prime Minister appeared to use the opportunity for a larger objective to wipe off the hangover of socialist outlook of the past when he told the nation that “unless wealth is created, we can not distribute wealth” and consequently the wealth creators should not always be suspect in public eyes.
As for the people at large, the Prime Minister outlined his approach of “ease of living” where the government should strive to a situation where the interference of government is minimised in the ordinary lives of common people. He suggested that there should neither be oppressive presence of government nor an absence of government and the government should instead be a partner in easing the lives of ordinary folks.
But, the Prime Minister also used his address to solicit public participation in a clutch of initiatives that appeared drawn from his experience with Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and Give It Up schemes in the previous terms. While Prime Minister appealed middle-class sections of the population to plan to visit at least 15 domestic tourist destinations in the next three years, he appealed to small traders and shopkeepers to start insisting on digital payments. He called upon the people at large to curtail plastic usage from October 2, birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, he also exhorted farmers toward incremental reduction in usage of chemical fertilisers and pesticides to protect the natural fertility of the soil. The Prime Minister, who had appealed for Make in India in his previous term, gave a call for prioritising “Made in India” products and preferable local products to revive local economies.
The Prime Minister, in this backdrop, also highlighted the issue of “population explosion” and warned of its deleterious effects on society. For this purpose, he appealed for “social awareness” as a tool to tackle this menace. His remarks, however, is likely to draw critical attention given how the allegation of population explosion has been used by a section of right-wing organisations to allege minority Muslim community as being the culprit.
On the international front, the Prime Minister did not dwell upon the larger global churn arising out of shifting powers of global balance and instead confined himself to the menace of terrorism and reiterated his call for global powers for concerted approach against terrorism. The Prime Minister, in this context, cited the challenges of terrorism in neighbouring Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to underline India’s responsibility in dealing with this challenge. Though he did not refer to Pakistan, his emphasis on Afghanistan in his speech appeared sending a reminder to the global community of Indian interests in Afghanistan peace process.
Prime Minister Modi also used this speech to announce a decision of a position of a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) as a clear way forward against piecemeal approach toward security requirements in dynamic security scenario of 21st century.
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