PM’s Lok Sabha speech: Modi’s message is clear
That the Opposition is not willing to learn from its mistakesUpdated: Jun 26, 2019 19:38 IST
In his reply to the debate on the President’s address to the joint session of Parliament, Prime Minister Narendra Modi combined the role of a statesman, a leader focused on governance and improving the lives of the poor, and a sharp and aggressive politician who knows how to attack the opposition where it hurt the most. Put together, Mr Modi’s first major speech in the 17th Lok Sabha revealed both his political and governance approach, and the legacy he is focused on creating in this term in office.
Mr Modi used the remarkable mandate the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) won under his leadership to drive home the point that citizens had endorsed the work of his government in the first five years. He spoke about the welfare schemes which addressed the needs of the most deprived. And he emphasised that the government will continue to fight poverty. The Cabinet’s decision to expand the scope of the PM Kisan scheme, which provides ₹6000 every year to all farmers, is yet another step in this direction. But this had to be accompanied with embracing modernity, and all the tools of the modern economy. From growth to manufacturing, from jobs to cutting edge research, Mr Modi’s references indicated that his government’s dual approach will rest on reforms with a human face, or inclusive growth. The PM also spent time focusing on the need to address the emerging water crisis in the country, and spoke of the creation of the Jal Shakti ministry as the nodal agency to deal with the issue. This is indeed an urgent priority and it is good that the government has decided to invest energy in addressing the issue.
But it was not just governance. Armed with the mandate, Mr Modi also sought to position himself above the daily battles that dominate politics. He spoke of Jawaharlal Nehru; and he reminded the Congress that he had repeatedly given credit to all past governments for the work done for nation building even when their own party had ignored the contribution of some of their PMs. But at the same time, the PM knew a political attack on him warranted a political response. Taking advantage of the Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury’s belligerent, unparliamentary remark (now expunged) directed at him, Mr Modi told the Congress that it had attained such heights that it was now totally disconnected from the ground. This was a clever move because it once again projected Mr Modi and the BJP as having strong roots, being the voice of the people, while the Opposition lived in an echo chamber. The fact that Mr Modi was speaking in the Lok Sabha on the anniversary of the Emergency allowed to remind the main Opposition about its past and buttress his credentials as a democratic leader. The speech revealed yet again why Mr Modi remains India’s sharpest politician, addressing multiple constituencies at the same time, even as the Opposition was left looking petty and unwilling to learn lessons from its defeat.