Corruption, nepotism, self-reliance: Modi's recurring themes on I-Day

Published on Aug 17, 2022 03:09 PM IST

While there may not have been anything new that he said, these issues are key pointers for the government’s narrative going ahead.

The PM cautioned that unless timely action is taken against corruption and nepotism, these would emerge as formidable challenges with an adverse impact on the country. (HT Photo) PREMIUM
The PM cautioned that unless timely action is taken against corruption and nepotism, these would emerge as formidable challenges with an adverse impact on the country. (HT Photo)

New Delhi: Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi’s speech on Monday on the occasion of India’s Independence Day celebration set the agenda for the 2024 general election. It also reflected the Union government’s response to the public perception of its policies and governance issues such as corruption.

While the 83-minute speech outlined issues that were raised in his previous addresses — indigenisation, women empowerment, electrification, direct transfer of benefits among others — there was a sharpened attack against nepotism, corruption and colonialism, and a renewed push for self-reliance and self-sufficiency that hint at the themes that will be at the front and centre in the coming months.

The PM cautioned that unless timely action is taken against corruption and nepotism, these would emerge as formidable challenges with an adverse impact on the country. His pointed reference to nepotism having done “injustice to the country's strength” is an indicator that the issue is likely to be the mainstay of the government’s narrative building against the regional parties that have emerged as a bulwark against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s pan India expansion.

“Dynastic politics is for the welfare of the family, it has nothing to do with the welfare of the country,” he said. Several regional parties in India follow dynastic succession, which has given the BJP ammunition to attack them as self-serving.

In July, while addressing his party colleagues at the national executive committee meeting, the PM instructed them to learn from the mistakes of the dynastic parties that are facing an “existential crisis”. He nudged the party people to follow the “P2 to G2” model, which means a pro-people and good governance model. Earlier in March, he opted for a stern stance against dynastic politics and mindful of the criticism that the party, too, has its share of dynasts, the PM told the BJP lawmakers that not giving tickets to relatives of party leaders was his decision. For good measure added, “Agar yeh paap hai to maine yeh paap kiya hai (if this is a sin, then it’s my sin)…”

Sanjay Kumar, political commentator and professor at the Centre for Study of Developing Societies, said the reiteration of pitfalls of nepotism is to distinguish between the BJP and the other parties, as it gets battle-ready for the next general election. “The BJP wants to keep reminding voters that there is an essential difference between them, the Congress and the other regional parties and how the dynastic rule has ruined the country. They want to reinforce the fact that corruption charges that are being unearthed by the investigating agencies are not against the BJP but against a host of regional parties, which are mostly run by one family,” he said.

Kumar said the BJP wants a clear demarcation that sets it apart from other political entities by creating a “connection that these parties that are in the hands of a few political families have made all the money in the name of the politics of social justice.”

The fight against corruption and the assurance of a relentless drive to bring to book those who scammed the banks that were mentioned in Monday’s speech was a throwback to the address in 2017 when the PM said those who have looted the nation and the poor can no longer sleep peacefully. He had then made a mention of the passage of the Benami Act that led to confiscating of Benami property worth 800 crore.

The underscoring of the government’s no tolerance towards corruption is in response to the incipient disenchantment with the government, said Kumar.

“I am not saying there is aggressive criticism of the BJP, but there is some unrest and people have begun to ask what is the difference between the BJP and other parties. There is price-rise, unemployment and people voted for them so that these problems will be solved. A slight disenchantment has crept in and there is some sort of mockery being made of the promises made in the last 6-7 years... So, a contrast has to be drawn, at least on one count the BJP is better than the other parties,” he said.

The PM’s emphatic displeasure at the disrespect of women, a statement that is perceived as an outreach towards the women voters who are counted as a major support group of the BJP, is also a theme addressed before. In 2014, the PM said when we hear about incidents of rape, we hang our heads in shame. “Parents ask their daughters hundreds of questions, but have any parents ever dared to ask their son as to where he is going, why he is going out, who his friends are? After all, a rapist is also somebody's son…”

The reference to women-centric issues is with a clear eye on women voters said, political commentator Manisha Priyam. “He has made a direct appeal to women in his eloquent style that behavioural aspects used to slight women should be shunned,” she said.

The speech came loaded with electoral undertones as the PM made a specific mention of accomplishments, such as the progress made in electrification and piped water supply.

With the exception of the five resolutions that he urged people to follow in the next 25 years, the speech centred around issues raised before, and served as a pointer for the government’s narrative going ahead.

Vice-chancellor, Jagran Lakecity University, Sandeep Shastri said given this was the 76th Independence Day celebration, there were heightened expectations from the speech, but as was done in the last eight years, the PM showed his skills as a master communicator.

“Today, there may not have been anything new that he said, it was repackaging of what he said in the past, but it provided the focus of where he is going or what the campaign in the next two years will look like.”

He said a notable point in his speech was the reference he made to anusandhaan (research). “It fits into the theme of self-reliance and indigenisation. It also fits in well with the Make in India programme,” he said.

In the absence of specific reference to issues such as the job sector or economy from the speech, Shastri said, the PM always touched on areas where he believes he has an advantage. “He always talks about the big picture. His generic speeches are not necessarily focused on detailed themes, but a broad brush to cover the entire canvas,” he said.

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    Smriti covers an intersection of politics and governance. Having spent over a decade in journalism, she combines old fashioned leg work with modern story telling tools.

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