Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reimagined the art of political communication. On Thursday, he delivered another master class performance. His Independence Day speech endorsed his role as the ‘unifier-in-chief’ of the country.
Modi’s commitment to the India inclusive growth story is phenomenal and the articulation of his intent is impeccable. He has used the occasion to cement his role as a mass leader who is keen on using the citizen connect to effect social change.
Having used the Red Fort platform to expand government welfare schemes into mass movement, Modi didn’t shy away from launching politically sensitive ideas. His mission to redeem poverty, a recurring theme of his I-Day speeches, observed a paradigm shift today.
Never afraid to pick up politically sensitive issues and ever willing to walk the talk, Modi broached the P-issue. The population explosion challenge came up as a mission statement.
Population explosion challenge
However, in line with his penchant for social countenance to policy change, he reset the issue, framing it in the socio-economic context divorcing from its political, religious and cultural connotation.
He sensitised couples to their moral, social and economic responsibility when planning a family. Children born without a secure economic future would curse their parents for not giving them their due.
He, however, did not lay any policy roadmap but it’s expected any time soon. The issue is sensitive and there is an urgent need for a multiple stakeholder engagement. The seed for a positive change has been sown today.
Linked to the issue of mitigating the population explosion is the idea of India’s economic stability. With finite resources at hand and infinite mouths to feed, it has been a perennial challenge. If not addressed earnestly, the demand supply deficit is bound to lead to some serious tragic circumstances.
$5 trillion economy roadmap
At the heart of today’ speech lay Modi’s quest to put India firmly on the $5 trillion economy. Conscious of growing negativity in the sentiment, the prime minister reiterated that the fundamentals of the economy were intact.He, however, did not skirt the challenges at hand. His new economic policy mantra enunciated in his speech rested on the following four pillars:
Big bang decisions: Prime Minister Modi for the first time admitted that the room for incrementalism was over as an impatient India waited breathlessly for some big bang growth reforms. Doing so, he set himself on a path of fast-tracked growth where he intends to do justice to the overwhelming mandate to his credit. Exports: For a change, Modi directly linked the economic growth story to the export buoyancy. India has not done well on exports in recent past. His vision to see export potential in each and every district is ambitious but indeed has potential. Infrastructure: His push for this sector is consistent and his first term saw some positive strides. Modi’s understanding of the ever-growing aspiration of citizens makes him see investment in infrastructure as the key to building a new India. India Inc: Perhaps for the first time, the I-Day speech has been used to articulate a very firm and categorical positioning of the business community in the country. Modi’s assertion that wealth creators are wealth distributors and in turn agents of poverty removal has put a new spin to the role play he sees for captains of industry in the country. India Inc will surely receive this endorsement as a major sign of a collaborative push for a new India.
The usual push for Make in India, tourism (services sector), digital economy and start-ups was in line with his larger economic agenda. What came up as a surprise (there is bound to be a mixed reaction) was the vocal push for ‘Go local’. The domestic industry would be pleased but must remember protectionism is a sop and takes you away from being competitive globally. This is, if course, in line with the developing trend against globalisation. But the catch here is whether the aspiring consumer in India would buy anything less than the best in the world?
Modi stuck to his defence of the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A urging everyone to not look at it from the prism of religion but from the perspective of growth and development. Prime minister reiterated his outreach to the people in the Valley calling them to shun violence and enjoy fruits of development.
He didn’t name Pakistan but sought to create a new block of terror victims in the neighbourhood identifying Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. He saw his Kashmir move as a major step towards eliminating terrorism from the region.
On the internal security front, he announced the big ticket decision of creating an integrated Chief of Defence Staff role, recommendation for which had been made by several expert committees.
In line with his positioning as a social reformer wedded to the idea of gender equity, Modi dwelt at length on the passing of the Triple Talaq Bill. Here again he pleaded that the move be not seen in the light of religion but women empowerment. He cited several changes brought about in the past in social malaises impacting all religions.
Citizen social crusader
On his mass mobilisation priority, the prime minister added one-time use of plastic as a mission statement in view of impending climate challenge. He sustained his save water push calling for a mass movement to end urban indifference while calling upon farmers to reimagine their produce using much less water taking recourse to technology.
As always, he didn’t shy away from using the opportunity to showcase his 70 days in the new government. He said the output had been phenomenal acknowledging the need to bring about positive quickly.
This is where he positioned his first term and the second term differently: if the first term was about simply meeting the needs of 130 crore Indians, the second term was about meeting their skyrocketing aspirations. And, he promised he would not let down his nation, for he knows the value of the trust India has placed in him.
Rakesh Khar is senior editor, Special Projects, Network 18. He writes at the intersection of politics and economy.