The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Brajesh seeks spice for PM speech

New Delhi, July 28: Brajesh Mishra, the principal secretary and national security adviser to the Prime Minister, has shot off letters to secretaries in Union ministries asking them to provide inputs to spice up Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s Independence Day speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort.

Mishra’s letter asks the secretaries to provide facts and figures that Vajpayee will be able to use to buttress the government’s claims in seven priority areas — poverty alleviation, employment generation, removal of development imbalances, improvement in quality of life, government-citizen interface, strengthening national security and enhancing India’s image abroad.

The letter sets a 15-day deadline to provide the “material”.

Going by the tenor of Mishra’s letter, Vajpayee’s speech can be expected to drive home the point that the NDA government is one that cares for the impoverished masses of the country and has done its bit to remove poverty and generate employment.

The “real-time” inputs sought from the ministries are expected to buttress the Vajpayee government’s claim of having provided good governance at a time when the countdown to the Assembly polls in four states has begun and the Lok Sabha elections are round the corner. It is clear that the government does not want to over-emphasise the Ayodhya plank and would also like to project its economic achievements.

Mishra has further asked for inputs on how each ministry has improved the quality of life of the average Indian in the field that it is governing and how a better government-citizen interface has been brought about.

He has also asked the ministries to provide information on achievements in removing regional and social imbalances. The PMO apparently wants to project that good governance under the present regime has also created a more egalitarian society.

Given Mishra’s IFS background and his present role as national security adviser, the list includes both national security and the “enhancement of India’s image abroad”. The government clearly wants to project the improved ties with the US and its ability to hold its own in insisting on a UN mandate for sending troops to Iraq as having resulted in an improved global image.

The Prime Minister’s visit to China and the restoration of the Lahore bus service — without relaxing vigil on the border — are other aspects that Vajpayee may dwell on to show that national interest has been taken care of through a deft handling of foreign policy.

Each ministry is expected to compile a 10-point performance report covering the previous year with regard to these seven priorities and an action plan of major initiatives to be taken in the coming year.

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