It was one of the more memorable political speeches so far from any politician in the fray for elections 2014. Narendra Modi’s speech at the concluding day of the BJP national council in the Capital had the characteristic flourishes expected from the party’s prime ministerial candidate.
But he went much further outlining his vision for India post-2014. The substantive part of the speech came in the second half, the first devoted to the BJP brand of alliteration and rhyme that people have become familiar with. So we heard of the need not for bills but will and finally dil. He spoke of commitment as opposed to committees and the need for action, not acts — a dig at the Congress. If anyone expected the combative Mr Modi to ignore the ugly barb from Congress MP Mani Shankar Aiyar about his origins as a tea vendor, they were mistaken. He spoke of how tea vendors all over the country are now roaming proud.
The criticism against Mr Modi so far has been that he has not come up with any substantial election issue. This time he did. He put forward a grand vision for India, some of which may be wishful thinking but nevertheless progressive and holistic. The focus on a price stabilisation fund is bound to go down well at a time when people have been hard hit by rising prices.
He spoke of the need for health assurance, not health insurance, stressing on preventive healthcare. River interlinking and the spread of IITs, IIMs and AIIMs to all states were other ideas he came up with. In an acknowledgement to the Vajpayee era, he spoke of moving ahead from the former PM’s dream of a Golden Quadrilateral national highway project to improving the rail system by introducing bullet trains. Putting Brand India back on the map also drew loud cheers. He spoke of women moving from homemakers to nation builders.
Pumping up the crowds with his ‘idea of India’ mantras, he exhorted people to make sure they vote to give this ‘servant’ 60 months as opposed to the 60 years the Congress has had in power. Though he did refer to the Gandhi family now and again, the speech was befitting a PM candidate in delineating what can be expected of a BJP government, should it come to power.
The presence of the party’s successful chief ministers on the stage demonstrates that perhaps Mr Modi is trying to move beyond being a one-man show. If he builds on the ideas he has now put forward, the campaign for elections 2014 could well move from the slugfest it has been so far to one of ideas and meaningful debates on issues that really matter to voters.