Contrary to expectations, PM Modi’s much awaited televised national address turned out to be an uncharacteristically quiet affair, barring an announcement on extension of free ration to 80 crore poor for the next five months up to November end.
While there is no detracting from the gesture to the poor and the needy, detractors felt he had an onerous duty to speak on the Chinese encroachment in Ladakh and remove the confusion created by his categorical denial of the intrusion at an all-party meeting on June 19.
Again, the other day, when the prime minister had talked about the ‘befitting response’ that has been given, couching it in purely nationalistic terms, he had studiously avoided any mention of China.
By omitting the issue yet again, an impression unwittingly got reinforced on Tuesday that all is okay at the Line of Actual Control and there is nothing to worry about. This despite media reports based on satellite data which suggest the situation on ground zero has not changed much.
This sentiment -- which found overwhelming support on social media -- was echoed by West Bengal MP and All India Trinamool Congress leader Mahua Moitra who criticised PM Modi’s 16-minute long speech, saying that he 'walked around the Panda in the room' and did not talk about anything useful. Shortly after the speech, she tweeted, "Seventeen minutes of walking carefully around the Panda in the room…Kyon PM Ji- abh kuch kaam ki baat ho jaaye?"
Sharing his deep concern about the laxity that has crept in during the loosening of restrictions, PM Modi underscored the need for the civic discipline that he had witnessed during the lockdowns.
Then, going off the tangent, he cited the instance of a prime minister who was fined Rs 13,000 for not wearing a mask in a public place and asserted that nobody is above rules, be it a village pradhan or a prime minister.
It was another matter that as the Prime Minister gave the well-meaning sermon he appeared on the television screen without wearing a mask. But that may well be for reasons of acoustics, it is pointed out.Coming back to free ration, every person will get 5 kg of wheat or rice per month and each family covered under the scheme will get 1 kg of pulses (chana) free of cost that will cost the exchequer in eight months Rs 1.50 lakh crore, PM Modi said.
He said this would cover the festivities that begin from July and go on up to Diwali and then the Chhat Puja, celebrated mostly in Bihar, where elections are due in November.There was again no mention of the migrant workers, but PM Modi stressed that they would be taken care of once the "one nation, one ration card" scheme comes into effect. Already, the scheme is delayed.
To conclude, as a political observer remarked, the much hyped national address of the prime minister was less about what he said and more for what he left unsaid.