There is no denying a good deal of public interest in the maiden address of Prime Minister Narendra Modi from the ramparts of the Red Fort on the 68th Independence Day. Frankly, he did not disappoint. Modi’s wonted oratory was in full flow, as he pressed all the right buttons to exhort India to get its act together. It was a virtuoso performance for a prime minister, who is new to national politics. In sharp contrast to his immediate predecessor, Modi mesmerised the nationwide audience with his exhortation to all sections of India to stand up and be counted in the great task of nation-building. He spoke extempore. What is more, he spoke from an open podium, not from behind a bullet-proof glass enclosure. And he had an attentive audience present at the vast Red Fort concourse. Typically, Modi began by calling himself a first servant of the people — pradhan sevak instead of pradhan mantra. This was received with wild cheering from the distinguished assemblage. There was much more to win the hearts of the people — and to neutralise the critics who had begun to wonder why he had suddenly gone silent after winning the keys to 7 Race Course Road. Well, he was working, and working quietly away from the glare of news cameras. As he said, he was not an insider in the byzantine Delhi politics. In the last two months after graduating to New Delhi, he had seen how it worked, or rather did not work. There were several governments within the government. He was aghast that one part of the government was fighting another part in the law courts. He was surprised that there was widespread wonderment at the bureaucrats reporting for work at the scheduled time. There was admonition for the perpetrators of caste and communal violence, with Modi saying it hampers development. Poverty removal was a priority of his government. Farmers too were the backbone of the economy and needed all possible help from the government. Typically, his concern for clean and orderly public places also came through in the address, as did his message to Indians to shun selfishness for nation-building. More concretely, the call to all legislators to adopt a village each annually and spend money from the MP or MLA funds to make it a model village should help change the face of India. With about 5,000 MPs, MLAs and MLCs, the idea can really make a difference to the living conditions of a large number of people throughout the country. No less significant was the proposed scheme for financial inclusion of farm workers with an assured insurance sum of Rs. One lakh in case of emergencies. His stress on making India the world’s next factory too was not unexpected, given that several economic experts espy a great opportunity with rising wages in China and, consequently, much of manufacturing moving to Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and even South Korea.
It was also natural for him to touch on the very serious social problem of female foeticide, which caused a skewed gender ratio of 940 girls for every 1,000 boys. Modi did well to remind the nation that a good third of the medals won by India at the recent Commonwealth Games were won by the female athletes. This was a real prime ministerial address in the true sense of the term, with Modi displaying humility as a first servant of the people, exhorting them when necessary, gently guiding them when required, and generally staying above the partisan fray. There was not a single false note in the entire address. Hope what he said he can implement in the year ahead. It was a stirring performance all the way.