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Modi Vs Modi 2014-2021 || Midweek Matters 25

03-09-2021published_dt 2021-09-03T08:23:04.931Z03-09-2021 13:53:04 IST
2021-09-03T08:23:04.931Z03-09-2021 2021-09-03T08:23:04.931Z - - 19-10-2021

Hello and welcome 

To Midweek Matters.


I never miss the Independence Day address by our Prime Ministers. Even when I was abroad, I used to visit our diplomatic mission to listen to them. This Sunday our PM has delivered his 8th Independence Day address to the nation from the ramparts of Red Fort. He is a very competent communicator. There’s nobody among his peers today who can match his oratorical skills. He packs his speeches with the precise message he wants to convey. He doesn’t stray from his point. What he says on such important occasions is indeed important to understand what his government has in store for the country. Perhaps equally important is, what is not said by him, side stepped by him, or said cursorily by him, and what he omitted saying. 

Today I want to look back at all his seven speeches from 2014 until last year, and put this year's speech against the back drop of his utterances in those. And try to understand from them the shift that has taken place between 2014 and 2021.

This year I was a bit late in tuning in. When I did tune in, just 7 minutes after the PM began his speech, I was stunned by what I heard him saying. These are the words he was speaking. Amaanaveeya haalaat se gujare, atyaacaar sahe. Jinhe samman ke saath antim samskar tak naseeb nahi huva. Un logon ko hamara smruti me jivit rakhna utna hi jaruri hai. For a fraction of a second I thought he was speaking about the thousands of people who died of Covid-19, who could not get hospital admissions, struggled for breath, for ventilators, oxygen, those who could not get dignified last rites, and about those whose bodies floated in Maa Ganga. It seemed unreal. The next sentence brought me back to reality. Our PM was speaking not about the Covid dead. He was telling what according to him the entire India has decided: to observe August 14th  as Vibhaajan Vibheeshika ka smriti divas. 

He was unclear whether he meant that we ought to remember both Hindus and Muslims who lost  their lives during the violence that erupted, the rioting that occurred in the wake of partition and large scale forced transfer of populations that took place across the borders of two countries that were created by dividing the united India on the basis of religion. The PM never lacks clarity when he wants. If he meant the atrocities committed by both the communities on each other he would have said so clearly and in many words. He didn’t. He left his listeners to draw their own inferences. That, to my mind, is no insignificant political message in his Independence Day address this year. Along with the many resolutions that he announced to shape the next twenty five years, until the centenary year of our Independence which he called Amrut Kaal, he also wants us to revive the memories of the poison of communal hatred that engulfed us 75 years ago. And carry that hemlock in our minds and hearts until 2047. Can there be any other purpose behind the announcement? 

If for a moment you forget about the Partition Horrors Remembrance Day, the 2021 Independence Day address was forward looking, full of resolve and inspirational. It called upon people to do their striving to create a Shrestha Bharat. It exhorted people that they should not wait to realise their dream of a prosperous india. However, if the Prime Minister chose to summon the dark, blood soaked period of violence and hatred into the nation's consciousness, there must be some purpose behind it. There must be some subliminal messaging embedded in the Partition Remembrance Day. His overt display of reluctance to send greetings to the government and people of Pakistan on their Independence Day this year only strengthens the subtext of the announcement. 

But the beginning of his innings in Delhi was very promising. It was a different avatar of Narendra Modi. I do not know how many of you remember his first Independence Day address in 2014. He didn’t carry his Mia Musharraf, James Michael Lyngdoh kind of rhetoric from Gujarat with him on his journey to Delhi.


His 2014 election campaign agenda was entirely on issues of development and corruption. On 15 August 2014 he called himself not Pradhan Mantri but Pradhan Sevak. He didn’t look for enemies and scapegoats in his predecessors. He gave credit to each one of them. In fact, to every state and it’s leadership. For the progress that india achieved until then. Let me read out for you the English rendering of that speech. He said: "... today if we have reached here after independence, it is because of the contribution of all the Prime Ministers, all the governments and even the governments of all the states. I want to express my feelings of respect and gratitude to all the previous governments and ex-Prime Ministers who have endeavoured to take our present day India to such heights and who have added to the country's glory." The Prime Minister in 2014 also said: "We are not for moving forward by virtue of majority. We want to move ahead on the basis of strong consensus." He continued to elaborate on the principle of consensus that he put in practice in 2014: "…the nation has witnessed the entire session of Parliament. Having taken all the Parties and Opposition along while working shoulder to shoulder, we achieved an unprecedented success and the credit does not go to the Prime Minister alone, the credit does not go to the people sitting in the government, the credit goes to the opposition also, the credit goes to all the leaders of the opposition too and also all the members of Parliament, I also salute all the political parties…" yes, believe me. This was our Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi. Today, hasn’t that Modi disappeared?

That year Modi spoke about "the poison of casteism and communalism." And said, "…look behind you and you will find that nobody has benefitted from it." And then he gave a call: "… let’s put a moratorium on all such activities for ten years," so that "we shall march ahead to a society which will be free from all such tensions." He told us about the benefits of that approach: "And you will see that how much strength we get from peace, unity, goodwill, and brotherhood. Let’s experiment it for once." Can you recognise the person who spoke these words? Does the Prime Minister today recognise the person who spoke that language? Does he ever recall that he spoke those words, not very long ago?

He began to speak about Team India in 2014. 125 crore people as Team India. All the Chief Ministers and the Prime Minister together as Team India. This is precisely what he said in the first meeting of NIlTI Aayog too. In his 2014 address, he said, "… a team of Chief Minister and Prime Minister should be there, a joint team of the Centre and States should move forward." If you look up his 2015 speech, the phrase Team India is repeated countless times. In some parts, every sentence had it. Believe me. But Team India disappears, can you believe it, entirely disappears, from his speeches from 2016 onwards. A very short shelf life for Team India. Today, we don’t hear Team India from our Prime Minister. One more thing. When did we hear the designation Pradhan Sevak again after the 2014 speech? Never again from the ramparts of Red Fort. I wonder why. Our tricolour and the historic Red Fort were not witnesses to his self appellation as chowkidar also. Why? 

I was trying to look for clues to the changeover from 'great things happened during the past 70 years' that was prominent in his 2014 speech to the theme 'nothing happened in the last 70 years' which we hear so very often today. His Ministers, his party leaders, his devotees say this repeatedly. Of course, the initial whistle was from him. That began to show up in 2016. If you examine the framing of the past in the Prime Minister's speeches from then on, it is like this: his government versus every other government before him. A sort of Before and After kind of framing. One can understand if the Prime Minister wants to set up himself as an antipode to the Congress and  the dynasty that presided over it. But it doesn’t stop with that.


That framing doesn’t take cognisance of Lal Bahadur Shastri, Morarji Desai - in whose government his own party's former incarnation was a part - VP Singh, Chandra Sekhar, Narasimha Rao, IK Gujral, Deve Gowda. What about Atal Bihari Vajpayee? The framing doesn’t take into account the Vajpayee Government also. His own leader's, his own party's government.

I will give you one example. The Prime Minister took credit for taking electricity to every village in the country. It’s framed as 'it wasn’t done for 70 years.' But you see the modesty of that task is not in the frame. Modesty is not emphasised. Not that it was not mentioned. But in the frame it’s out of focus. This is how it’s framed. By the time he assumed office, out of about 6 lakh villages, only 18 thousand 5 hundred of them were not connected to electricity. And his government did that. But it is very artfully framed as though his government achieved electrification of 100% villages. It is ironic he takes the name of Hathras, which takes just three hours to reach from Delhi. And to score his point against the past governments, says, it took 70 years for electricity to reach there. I’ve given you just one example. When you have time please look up his speeches. You will find many such, I assure you. I have given the links to all his speeches in the description below. You will spend your time well to read them. For, the speeches of our Prime Minister are important. 

Usually he’s good at reporting the achievements of his government. He does that very competently. He gives you numbers. That’s when, he is confident. He would tell you how many Jan Dhan accounts were opened. How many redundant laws were repealed. How much grain was produced. How much ration was distributed. You will find them in his speeches from Red Fort. It is easy to find out when and about what he is not confident. He doesn’t make a mention of the programmes or initiatives. Doesn’t give data. For example, he has no figures to offer on Make in India, Start Up India, Skill India, Stand Up India. All of them are his government's flagship programmes. In fact, they’re actually the tools that could help him transform india. Look up his speeches. You won’t get a clue about how they’re doing. He also doesn’t make a mention, for example, about how many jobs were created, how prices were brought down or controlled. 

You will notice one more interesting feature of his Red Fort communication. Ideological and political issues that were addressed a few days or weeks before 15 August find mention in his the Red Fort speech. And he deals with them at length. For example: Scrapping of Article 370 and 35 A. Laying Foundation to Ram Temple at Ayodhya. Abolition of Triple Talaq.  Decision to mark Partition Horrors Day. But in the 2017 speech, the Prime Minister deals with the act of colossal importance, the demonetisation very cursorily. The country was reeling under its impact even ten months after the decision. Similarly, Covid-19 receives very brief treatment in both 2020 and 2021 speeches. Just a few sentences, and a few seconds. 

The humility, team spirit, consensus, compassion, cooperation, call for eradicating the poison of communal and caste disharmony that marked the 2014, 2015 Modi speeches from the ramparts of Red Fort began to fade and disappear from 2016. Were his words of those two years unreal? Just a performer's lines delivered for effect without intent? Only empty rhetoric? If they were truly the defining creed of Modi's New India can they disappear from his lexicon of annual discourse on  politics and governance? Should they disappear? Did the Prime Minister who spoke in 2014 and 2015 wore a persona only to snare the young and middle class of the country and dropped it as years passed by? Which is real - 2014 or 2021? 


That’s all for this week, Will be back again next week, Wednesday

Lunch time at 1:00 o’clock. 

Stay safe and do take good care of yourselves and all your dear ones.

Until then, bye.