NaMo’s Tall Red Fort Promises

NaMo’s Tall Red Fort Promises

Apart from making passport issuance easier, rest of Modi’s I-Day promises are tardy

By Anil Anand

August 15, the Independence Day, is a solemn occasion and all eyes are riveted to the ramparts of historic Red Fort from where the Prime Minister of India addresses the nation. Normally this is the occasion for the Prime Minister of the day to directly talk to the people, as was the past practice, and touch upon significant issues confronting the nation but had certainly not been the occasion to unveil the policies and plans of the government.

In few days from now Prime Minister would deliver his fourth address to the nation which assumes more significance as the country inches towards 2019 Lok Sabha elections. In all probability the shadow of the elections will loom large on his address and might influence it in some ways.

 One is certainly not suggesting that he would in any form disclose BJP’s poll manifesto through his dispensation’s future plans but surely elections would be in the back of his mind before he starts delivering the speech. So beginning with his Independence Day-2017 speech that would lead to his last I-Day speech in 2018 before seeking a fresh mandate, the task would more or less be cut out for him.

Modi’s penchant for doing things differently at the cost of past traditions and precedents was visible from the manner in which the entire plan for him to deliver his maiden speech from Red Fort in 2014 was conceived and executed. This tradition has since continued for the past two years.

The excellent communicator that Modi is, there could not be any better platform for him than the hallowed Red Fort to pour his feelings out and unveil his government’s plans in greater details than any other Prime Minister did in the past. The past tradition has been to touch upon the salient features of plans and policies encapsulated with the incumbent PM’s own vision but not with Modi.

Recently when Modi during one of his public discourses divulged that in response to his appeal to the people to give suggestions for preparation of his R-Day speech this year how someone ticked him that since his speech tends to become longish, he should ensure that it is more concise. That in itself was vindication of the fact that he had been using this forum to deliver a long discourse and also indicative of the fact that time has come for him to count, as a matter of fact, his achievements rather than keep floating fresh ideas.

After May 2014 impressive victory, Modi naturally took to the Red Fort ramparts later that year on a very high spirited note and took everyone by surprise when he appeared attired in a colourful turban, a tradition which he has continued ever since by donning the headgear depicting tradition of different regions of the country, and of course his trade-mark half-sleeve kurta, Nehru jacket and churidar.

He was by all himself, and in his garrulous style dared the, neighbours in particular and political rivals alongside rolling out a unique agenda with construction of public toilets and launching of ‘Swach Bharat’ plan as the highlights. The focus was on poor downtrodden and farmers of the country which he reiterated in his subsequent addresses in 2015 and 2016.

Some of the key promises held out by him to the nation then were launching Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, Saansad Adarash Gram Yojana, separate toilets in all government schools, especially for girls, 10-year moratorium on communal clashes, Launch of Make in India and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), Jobs for young people under 35,

The government did take number of initiatives to roll out these plans but definitely felt short of people’s expectations which had been raised to astronomical levels by Modi’s reassuring speeches. Obviously, there is a strong case in his favour that implementation of new plans and schemes required preparing relevant infrastructure which is no mean task in a huge country as India. But somehow his high-tone public discourses created an impression, assisted by a well oiled machinery of both the ruling BJP and the government, that everything would be achieved before time, thereby giving a magical effect to Modi’s persona. 

Come 15th of August, 2015 and a fresh set of promises, of course accompanied by reiteration of last year’s schemes and achievements thereafter. The salient features of 2015 were speeding up financial inclusion, toilets in every school, reducing LPG subsidy and electrification of villages apart from usual reference to dealing with Pakistan vis-a-vis Kashmir.

Certainly, as on August 5, 2015, 174.5 million new bank accounts had been opened; 46 percent of these were zero-balance accounts. The situation on this front certainly improved by the time he came on to deliver his 2016-Independence Day speech but definitely felt short of the government’s own claims.

The implementation of Adarsh Gram Yojana was tardy. The target to have a toilet particularly a separate toilet for girls in every school of the country is still in the process of being achieved.

The promise held out by Modi from his inaugural year to put a 10-year old moratorium on communal clashes has also remained to be a pipedream. The communal clashes have taken place in the last three years and the spirit with which he made this announcement is certainly missing on ground. The cow vigilantes and Hindutava brigade are on the offensive leading to communal tension in sections of the society despite stern warning by the Prime Minister though belatedly.

The promises held out to curb unemployment by providing jobs to people under 35 have still not fructified. The Skill Development programmes have been started to train unemployed youth to either start own ventures or meet needs of the private sector.

The main focus of Modi’s 2016 I-Day speech was on Pakistan in view of its continuous efforts to abet terrorism in Kashmir. He sprang a surprise by referring to internal disaffection in Balochistant and in PoK as means of beating Islamabad at its own game.

Definitely the promises on making passport issuance process simple were achieved to a great extent. Similarly, the infrastructure development has gathered moment but much claimed improvement and up-gradation of railway services have remained elusive leave aside bullet trains and five-star railway stations.

Modi has a daunting task at hand when he addresses the nation this year. There are achievements which he has every reason to mention but there are deficiencies and mismatch between his claims and fulfillment of promises. This dichotomy for him prevails both on the internal and external policy fronts.

The situation is certainly not comfortable on the Indo-Sino and Indo-Pak fronts contrary to the government’s earlier claims of “taking care” of both the hostile neighbours. Neither is situation in a comfort zone in Kashmir both politically as well as on security front. This is another matter that Modi government’s relentless effort to have an upper hand on security front is something which could give it comfort.

Will he scale down on the length of his speech as suggested by a member of the public? What will be the colour and style of his ‘turban’? People would curiously watch out for the Day.