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Poetic Politics The sharp electoral calculations of PM’s soaring Independence Day oratory

August 16, 2018 06:28 AM

COURSTEY TOI AUG 16

Poetic Politics

The sharp electoral calculations of PM’s soaring Independence Day oratory
What used to be, during UPA years, a staid speech delivered from the Red Fort’s magnificient ramparts has been transformed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi into spectacle, poetry, performance. Yesterday’s Independence Day speech did not disappoint on this score. Moreover, it was a positive and feel-good speech that sought to project the impression of a nation on the move under NDA, weaving dreams for the electorate with an eye on general elections around the corner.

The rupee hurtling to unprecedented depths is a symptom of the many economic and social ailments the government currently battles. But with anti-incumbency and voter jadedness setting in Modi’s soaring rhetoric put the government’s best foot forward, giving notice that come 2019 BJP will rely on him to do the electoral heavy lifting once again. Modi reached out to broad constituencies yesterday – from women to farmers, OBCs, the poor, the middle class, north-easterners and Kashmiris – to whom he projected empathy. Going into the next election season BJP is likely to have two things going for it: Modi’s oratory and the opposition’s weakness.


How voters judge the high oratory against their lived reality will of course be known only after counting day. But BJP should know this will be a tough test. Take the case of how Modi’s first Independence Day speech gave the Swachh Bharat call to action, and the centrepiece of this one was Ayushman Bharat, to be launched in September. This ambitious health insurance scheme for 10 crore families, each with a cover of Rs 5 lakh per annum, promises to be a gamechanger. But given the underdelivery of the cleanliness mission worrisome questions are being asked about Ayushman Bharat, such as how it will address the last-mile shortage of doctors and primary healthcare.

Against the backdrop of agrarian distress across the country Modi also doubled down on the promise of doubling farmers’ incomes by 2022, by saying a new agri export policy will be unveiled soon. Certainly the country’s agricultural marketing and trade policies are crying for reform. But given the inadequate movement on this front in the preceding four years, will voters trust change is coming this election year? It’s the million dollar question. Modi said India, a sleeping elephant, is now running. That can kindly be called poetic licence. Perhaps the gap between promises and delivery was implicitly acknowledged, and internalised, when the PM spoke of how impatient he is.

 

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