‘After Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, win Sabka Vishwas’: Modi’s message of inclusion
By reaching out to his allies, even though the BJP on its own has a majority, he presented a politically inclusive image, laced with statesmanship.
At the parliamentary party meeting of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) on Saturday, Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi gave one of his most significant speeches in recent times. He was addressing multiple constituencies – members of Parliament (MPs) of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and MPs belonging to allies, BJP workers on the ground, his larger ideological fraternity of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), including its more belligerent affiliates, and the country at large. By focusing on inclusion, restraint, the importance of coalitions and regional aspirations, commitment to constitutional values, and the path ahead, Mr Modi has laid out the roadmap for the next five years.
The first important intervention was with regard to minorities. Mr Modi pointed out that he had, in 2014, said that his government would work for the poor, did so, and was rewarded in the polls, for it is the poor that elected the government back. There was a multi-class coalition that propelled the BJP to a majority, but it is true that there has been a broadening of the party’s class base with the rural poor contributing to the saffron surge. This time, he said the government would continue to focus on the poor - but also the minorities who had been “deceived” so far ---- who had been made to live in fear and treated as mere vote bank. It was time to end the trust deficit with them, Mr Modi declared, and added “Sabka Vishwas” to his slogan of “Sabka saath, sabka vikaas”. He also pointed out to his MPs that they must work for all, not merely those who voted for them. This is admirable messaging. While the BJP would do well to introspect how its own ideological world view and actions on the ground have contributed to insecurity among minorities, if indeed Mr Modi lives up to his word, and his government is non-discriminatory in letter and spirit, it will mark a significant departure in the relationship between the regime and the country’s substantial minorities.
Mr Modi’s emphasis on restraint in speech is also noteworthy. It is through statements that a segment of BJP leaders created a climate of intolerance, anger, even hate over the past five years. By warning them to be careful, and not create problems, Mr Modi was not just seeking to avoid future controversies but also perhaps disassociating himself from any such rhetoric that may emanate from the party ranks. And by reaching out to his allies, even though the BJP on its own has a majority, he presented a politically inclusive image, laced with statesmanship. If you add together Mr Modi’s first tweet, which mentioned an inclusive India, his victory speech where he emphasised the need to take the opposition along, his gesture of paying his respects to party veterans LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, and his speech on Saturday, it appears that the PM in this term is seeking to be a truly unifying figure. And this is coming from a position of supreme strength and confidence. His challenge is in operationalising all of this into action on the ground now.