As India celebrated the 75th anniversary of its independence on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi framed his political argument on two pillars, spelling out a five-point “pran” (commitment/ resolve) for the ensuing 25 years, and the twin challenges of “corruption” and “dynasty politics and nepotism” confronting the nation.
Devoid of announcements on any social sector schemes, Modi focused on the big picture, dwelt on the ideas for the future, urging people to embrace self-reliance in spirit and action. With people participating in the intense har ghar tirangacampaign, and elections to more than half-a-dozen states this year, he sought their support and blessings to fight bhrashtachar, pariwaarwad and bhai-bhatijawad.
The Prime Minister, who has taken up issues of importance in the past earlier — cleanliness in 2014 and getting rid of the “chalta hai” attitude in 2017 — struck a chord with women as he emphasised the “dignity” of women. He used his political capital to push the message of respecting women who are part of an ever-growing and decisive — and, at times, independent of the menfolk — constituency of voters.
Setting a broad direction for the next quarter of a century, he elaborated on the paanch pran – the first being the goal of a developed India by 2047, which seeks to stoke the ambition of an aspirational society. At one point, he said those who are 25 years now will be 50 when the country turns 100. He knows his constituency – the youth. India’s median age this year is 28 years.
The second commitment is to “remove any trace of colonial mindset” — a euphemism of sorts for his push towards the dictum “Indians don’t need any certificates from the world”. This comes from recent experiences where statements are sometimes made by foreign governments, UN bodies, international surveys, and even foreign rating agencies.
The third is “to take pride in our roots” — again a reminder to people about their rich civilisation and an attempt to reawaken that consciousness. The BJP has been seeking to push this for the last eight years — from Yoga to Ayurveda.
While the fourth commitment Modi underlined was “unity” – amongst all workers, especially women, the fifth related to the duty and responsibility of citizens. He framed this argument by saying that while the government will try to bring in facilities and amenities for the people of the country, it is the duty of the people and the citizenry to save and conserve resources that are finite.
By referring to corruption, he clearly targeted the Congress and the Trinamool Congress (TMC). At one point, he said that while some people did not have money, some were finding it difficult to hide their money. His remarks came at a time when the Enforcement Directorate had recently recovered a huge stash of cash from a senior Trinamool Congress leader’s aide in Kolkata.
While the BJP government has been criticised for allegedly using the Central agencies to target Opposition leaders, Modi said his fight against corruption is entering in a “decisive period” and warned that even the big-wigs (bade-bade chamarbandi) will not be spared. “The corrupt are eating away the country like termites. I have to fight against it, intensify the fight and have to take it to a decisive point. So, my 130 crore countrymen, please bless me and support me!”
And, while talking about corruption, Modi spoke of the need to hate the corrupt and view them with contempt — a new framing in the fight against corruption. With leaders of parties such as the Aam Aadmi Party, whose crusade against corruption is its main political plank, and the Congress, Modi solicited peoples’ support to emerge victorious in his fight against bhrashtachar.
The second major challenge confronting the nation, according to Modi was pariwaarwad (dynasty politics) and bhai-bhatijawad (nepotism); this was not just limited to the political sphere, but other institutions and sectors too.
This is not a new theme and the PM has talked about it many times in the past, most recently at the three-day BJP national executive meeting in early July. It assumes significance now as the BJP is gearing up for a poll battle in Telangana, where the K Chandrasekhar Rao-led TRS is accused of being dynastic in its style of functioning. While the BJP has to engage in a bitter electoral fight with Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh and RJD in Bihar, where it recently lost its government and ally to arch-rival Lalu Prasad-led RJD, in the south the party has to face parties like DMK, YSRCP and TRS – all are accused of being run by families – to expand its footprints.
All this points to the larger political campaign plan for 2024 on these twin planks of “corruption” and “nepotism” — something that he is familiar with, has used in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, and knows that it continues to resonate among the electorate.