Exactly a year after he had spoken from a replica of Red Fort in Bhuj town of Gujarat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday steered clear of many controversial issues that he had wanted the then PM Manmohan Singh to address.
The BJP’s then prime ministerial candidate Modi had asked last year as to Why didn’t the PM, assuage the concerns of President Pranab Mukherjee who had asked Pakistan not to “test the limits of India’s patience”?
Modi, however, skipped any reference to Pakistan or bilateral disputes on Friday. That his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, had raised the Kashmir issue just a day earlier did not provoke the Prime Minister. Modi did not make any reference to Pakistan in the Independence Day speech. It was in contrast with his speech a few days back in Jammu and Kashmir where he accused Islamabad of waging a proxy war against India. The remark had immediately drawn a reaction from Pakistan, which called it a “baseless rhetoric”.
Modi also stayed silent on issues like inflation and corruption – which had been key themes of his line of attack against Manmohan Singh.
The difference between the speeches in Bhuj and Delhi separated by a year doesn’t end with the content of the address but the tone and tenor as well. Last year, Modi was in campaign mode; his agenda was to discredit and demolish the UPA government; steal the show and get public attention; and present himself as the credible alternative for the Centre.
But this year, Prime Minister Modi – secure in a comfortable majority and the mandate of the people – shed this avatar.
He reached out to his predecessors and political adversaries; he gave credit to all former PMs and past governments; he spoke of governance by consensus and not through the brute force of his majority; he hailed the founding fathers and the power of Indian constitution and democracy; and he spoke a language of political and social inclusion, against strife, discord and violence.
In some ways, the two speeches showed the democratic journey of the politician who has moved from campaign mode and understood the dignity of the office he holds, and the responsibilities that come with the office.