Rajat Sharma


AKBPrime Minister Narendra Modi virtually launched his 2024 election campaign on Tuesday with his Independence Day speech from the ramparts of Red Fort. Without mentioning a word about elections, without naming any individual or party, he hit out at the opposition and outlined his 2024 poll agenda by focussing on three big ills: dynastic politics, corruption and appeasement. He listed his nine-year-old government’s big achievements – from Mudra Yojana to assistance for MSMEs, supply of piped drinking water, Ayushman Bharat, Jan Aushadhi Kendras and several other schemes. He announced a scheme to empower and train 15,000 women’s self-help groups for using drones in farm sector, with an aim of achieving, what he said, “two crore lakhpati didis” in villages. He also announced interest subsidy on bank loans for slum- and chawl-dwellers for building their own house. He also announced a Vishwakarma Yojana for upskilling of artisans like carpenters and weavers. Modi put forth his vision for the next five years, with focus on middle class by ensuring cheap internet data and curbs on inflation. He promised to fulfil his guarantee of making India the third largest economy within the next five years. Modi also spoke about his dream of making India a developed nation by 2047. A confident Modi said, “Next year, on August 15, from this very Red Fort, I will present to you our achievements”. The Prime Minister’s I-Day speech this time was pure, vintage Modi. He projected himself as a fighter ready to take on the opposition in next year’s elections. Modi is always more effective in adverse situations. I do not think the opposition leaders had any inkling about Narendra Modi speaking out bluntly from the Red Fort. Modi is after all Modi. He gave his speech in his own way and replied to each of the charges levelled by the opposition. He did not use a teleprompter and spoke extempore for 90 minutes with verve and energy. He spoke on Manipur also, and hoped that peace will be restored soon. This was Modi’s style of sending the message that he always thinks positively, in the interest of the nation. While lashing out at the opposition on the issue of dynastic politics, Modi said, “For me, the country is my family”. Leaders of the newly formed opposition alliance, like Rahul Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee, Lalu Prasad, Sharad Pawar, Arvind Kejriwal and M K Stalin had been alleging that Modi was misusing investigation agencies like ED and CBI for politics. Modi made corruption one of the main issues in his speech. He spoke of how several lakh crores of rupees were drained from government funds due to corruption. Naturally, the opposition asked questions about why leaders like Ajit Pawar, facing corruption charges, were taken in NDA. But dynastic politics is one area where Modi’s charge carries weight. Modi has no family of his own. In his speech, he frequently spoke to the people of India as “mere parivaarjan” (my family members). He spoke of how 140 crore Indians belong to his family. For nearly 48 times in his 90-minute speech, Modi used the words ‘mere parivaarjan’. This will have a big effect on the minds of listeners. By speaking against appeasement, Modi sent a message to his core voters and assured them that he would never support appeasement politics for the sake of votes. Modi made two points that indirectly meant that if the people of India elected him for a third consecutive term, it will have a far-reaching effect. Modi also spoke of his dream of making India a developed nation like the USA by 2047. He reminded of how a single mistake of intra-rivalry between two kingdoms led to the defeat of King Prithviraj Chauhan at the hands of an invader and India had to face 1,000 years of slavery. This will not be allowed to be repeated, he said. Modi cautioned the people not to commit the same mistake again. A mistake made at a moment in history can cause people to face travails for centuries. “Lamhe Ne Khataa Ki Thi, Sadiyan Ne Sazaa Pai”, goes the famous Urdu couplet.

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