Modi betrays nervousness

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the Lok Sabha during the Budget Session of Parliament, in New Delhion Feb 7, 2019. PTI

With his own stock falling among sections of voters, especially the youth and farmers, and perhaps feeling pushed to the wall by the gathering opposition forces, Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered a masterful speech in his Motion of Thanks to the President’s address to Parliament, with great turns of phrases through the 100-minute harangue of the Congress party. Except that he himself is guilty of the charge he made of Congress’ ‘Before Congress-After Dynasty’ mentality. The thrust of his own speech was that India had achieved nothing and had no stature in the world before he came to the PM’s seat. Those who know the history of Independent India know better. But this was a speech aimed at the first-time voter and the uninformed in 2019, as Modi himself made it clear in the very beginning.

The thrust of his speech was that he had done more in his 55 months in office than the Congress had in 55 years. The comparison itself is based on false premises. Modi forgets that he stands on the foundation — the Constitution and democracy, nuclear and space prowess, the Green and White Revolutions and economic reforms and growth acceleration — that earlier prime ministers from Nehru to Manmohan Singh built. True, Modi has some creditable achievements to boast of — as he himself claimed, 13 million houses built for the poor, broadband fibre to 1.14 lakh villages, and the like. But the PM does not need to show somebody else in poor light to make himself shine brighter in a speech in Parliament. Modi seems unable to avoid turning every speech into an election campaign speech. In doing so, he easily fell into the trap of making misleading statements, shorn of all perspective — historical, economic, demographic, scientific or diplomatic — on bank loans, on electrification of villages, on even Tejas fighter jets and so on. Quite visibly, he was weakest on jobs, using EPFO data to claim massive job creation in the formal sector and even claiming credit for jobs in the informal sector – such as those of Uber and Ola drivers and e-commerce delivery boys. He conveniently ignored that very morning’s massive protest rally in New Delhi by students of 25 universities across the country demanding “Where are the jobs?”

To be fair to the prime minister, he did raise some serious charges against Congress — its dependence on dynasty, corruption, ruining institutions, and of losing the way along the path in its 56 years in powers. Congress has much to answer for and it must address these charges going forward. Yet, by focusing his entire speech on Congress, Modi clearly betrayed that Rahul Gandhi’s party and the gathering regional alliances have rattled him. Clever phrases like ‘Mahamilavat’ and showmanship in Parliament cannot hide the nervousness that has gripped Modi and the BJP.

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