Modi waves 4 'speed' years

Prime Minister Narendra Modi plugged himself as a messiah of change in his election-year Independence Day address, suggesting he put the country on the path to greatness after long decades of stagnation.

By J.P. Yadav
  • Published 16.08.18
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the country from the Red Fort on Independence Day. Picture by Prem Singh

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi plugged himself as a messiah of change in his election-year Independence Day address, suggesting he put the country on the path to greatness after long decades of stagnation.

His 80-odd-minute speech on Wednesday appeared an attempt at spadework for the general election, due next summer.

Modi flagged the "transformation" India had purportedly seen during his four-year-old tenure and peddled the dream of the country soaring to greater heights, to a "new dawn" and to a "new India".

Sporting a saffron turban, he repeatedly called out to "my dear countrymen", making particular mention of the "poor, Dalits, backwards, women, youth, farmers and taxpayers".

He set himself up as a leader "impatient" to take the country up the "crescendo of development".

As former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh listened from the front row, Modi compared the pace of development in 2013 and that in the last four years.

He claimed that adherence to the speed of 2013 would have taken the country "decades", "generations" and even "centuries" to arrive where it finds itself now in the matter of building toilets, electrifying villages and providing cooking gas connections to households.

"If we don't look at where we started, we will not be able to understand how far we have come," he said.

"It would have taken centuries to build toilets for all with the 2013 speed. Electrification of villages would have taken one or two decades more. It would have taken more than 100 years to bring gas connections to mothers struggling with smoke. It would have taken generations for optical fibre cables to reach the villages."

Modi seemed to imply that all this had happened only because of his rule since everything else in the country had remained the same since the days of the previous government.

"The country, land, air, sky, sea, government office, files and the process of decision-making are the same but in the last four years the country has been feeling the change. The country is surging ahead with a new consciousness and resolve," the Prime Minister said.

He said India was now building highways twice as fast and rural houses four times so. A record number of mobiles had been manufactured and tractors sold. A huge number of aeroplanes were being procured.

Modi projected himself as a leader who could take "bold decisions" and claimed to have eliminated "power brokers" from Delhi, wiping out the climate of corruption that allegedly thrived under the previous government.

He promised not to "forgive the corrupt" and said his government had saved Rs 90,000 crore by plugging the loopholes in various schemes.

Further, under his rule India had emerged on the world map. Once India was classified among the five most fragile economies because of a policy paralysis but it had now turned into a "land of reform, perform and transform".

"India's voice is being heard effectively on the world stage. We are integral parts of forums whose doors were earlier closed to us," the Prime Minister said.

He highlighted the passage of bills restoring the stringent provisions of the SC/ST anti-atrocity law and granting constitutional status to the backward commission, and promised to provide justice to Muslim women by getting the instant triple talaq bill passed.

Modi confessed to being "impatient" and "restless".

"I want to publicly acknowledge that I am restless because several countries have marched ahead and I want to take India ahead of them.... I am impatient because children are still suffering from malnutrition," he said.

"I am eager to provide health coverage to the poor so that they can fight diseases. I am restless because we have to lead a knowledge-based fourth industrial revolution."

Indirectly telling voters that he needed another term, he said: "My dear countrymen, we want to move beyond what we are today. Stagnancy is not acceptable to us. Stopping is not acceptable to us. Bowing down is not in our nature."

He added: "This country will neither stop, nor bow nor get tired. We have to attain new heights and keep soaring."