Modi’s Red Fort Debut
Modi’s Red Fort Debut
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s maiden speech from the ramparts of Red fort was historic in many ways. Dubbed as a “Zero Defect” speech, it received unprecedented response for its sheer spontaneity and range of audience. Speaking extempore with only cue cards and not a prepared speech and without a Bullet-Proof security box (despite warning from his security staff), as has been the practice by his predecessors, Modi’s speech was directed at the entire country and not a specific section of the public. If he disappointed the corporate world and media by not making any big-bang announcements on large infrastructure projects or reforms, he surprised in equal measure, most of his critics and admirers for deciding to refrain from making any reference to hostile neighbor – Pakistan. Most of his speech was focused on people at the bottom of the pyramid: his vision for financial inclusion – Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (JDY) with focus on providing bank accounts and accidental death insurance to over 80 million unbanked households; Women’s safety, provision of toilets for poor; Digital India and call to 800+ present members of parliament and even state MLAs to adopt a villages and turn them into models of progress for others to emulate. Two major announcements which concerned India Inc are: Modi’s call for mission “Make in India” – inviting investors and multinationals to set-up manufacturing base in India and sell anywhere they wish, and disbanding the last vestige of Nehruvian era – Planning Commission and replacing it with a think-tank with participation from state governments, a long standing demand of several states.
There was very little in Modi’s speech that could provide fodder to his critics. He steered clear of controversies, made no major announcements and was even conciliatory towards his opponents. But, Narendra Modi is anathema to opposition, left-liberals and media, all of whom watch closely his every move, word, body language and even his sartorial style. In his speech, Modi exhorted political parties of all hues and Naxals to shun violence and pleaded for at least a 10 year moratorium on caste and communal violence. There was uproar in media, who demanded why Modi was seeking only 10 year moratorium and why not eschew violence permanently. Noble thought, but was it so difficult to surmise the rationale why Modi was pitching for 10 years?
Long time Modi critic – British periodical The Economist felt there was more style than substance, but failed to explain what exactly it expected from Modi!
And then,there was the Page-3 celebrity from South Bombay, popularly known as SoBo Queen – Shobha De, (although I personally like to call her a SoPo Queen for the kind of Soft Porn she is known to churn out), who attempted to belittle Modi’s call for provision of toilets in rural India. In a television debate on a popular English channel, Ms De felt this was an issue befitting the level of a Mayor of a small town or a city and certainly not the Prime Minister of a country. Readers would recall that when Baduan rape & murder of two teenage cousins hit the headlines a couple of months ago, civil society was up in arms against the government and most well known names wanted provision of toilets in rural areas be declared as a national mission. But, when Modi suggests a similar project, the idea is mocked at! Yet another skeptic – well known ad-maker and much married Alyque Padamsee called Modi a “Consummate actor” for his spell binding speech. Consumate actor? For a famous theatre personality like Alyque Padamsee, anything that Modi does is acting, notwithstanding the accolades Modi received from his supporters and critics. His choice of clothes and more particularly the traditional turban in Bhandhani (tie & dye from Kutch, Gujarat) worn in Rajasthani style was discussed ad nausea by media and celebrity fashion designers, most calling it a well thought out attire symbolizing his yearning to connect with people.
Opposition parties, particularly Congress predictably dismissed Modi’s eloquent speech for not making any reference to minorities. Calling it a disappointing address with “half baked ideas” Congress, not surprisingly reiterated once again that BJP politics is based on communalism. People’s verdict, however, was quite different and most who watched the speech live on their television sets were moved by Modi’s eloquence and honesty. In a poll conducted by Hindustan Times soon after Narendra Modi’s speech, an overwhelming 79% rated his speech as excellent, while 13% rated it as Good. Whatever, the opposition and his detractors may say; Modi managed to strike a chord with people and even reached out to opposition with his call for non-partisan politics. Sample this: