Since coming to power and delivering his first Independence Day speech from the Red Fort, prime minister Narendra Modi has made the event something to watch out for, either with the delineation of a vision statement or by announcing something important. With the completion of over four years of this government, he may be expected to provide an account of his government’s achievements as India observes its seventy-second Independence Day.
Unlike during the UPA regime, prime minister Modi’s Independence Day speeches have been different in content and perspective, especially as he is known to outline a time bound work plan. All the four earlier Independence Day speeches had something to offer.
Every grand plan, mega scheme or project that he announced came with a deadline or timeframe attached to it. For instance, under the Sansad Gram Yojana launched by his government, every Member of Parliament had to adopt one village every year and nourish it with set parameters. Similarly, the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan taken up across the country had targeted deadlines to achieve and set for completion by 2022, when the country celebrates its 75th Independence Day and 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. Even the ‘antyodaya’ concept introduced to make available access to food and basic services and empower the last man had deadlines.
Most signature projects of prime minister Modi on the economic front were also unveiled on Independence Day. For instance, ‘Make in India’, ‘Start up India’ or mudra loans were first outlined on Independence Day. The general budget has been used as an instrument to give shape to these schemes.
The Jan Dhan Yojana accounts with life and accident insurance cover and 1,000-day deadline for taking electricity to every village were again part of an August 15 speech. Taking clean cooking gas to every household with appeal for giving up subsidy by well to do families was also a big initiative which he announced during the Independence Day speech in 2015.
This time round, with elections round the corner, the prevailing political narrative and populism may be brought centre-stage. Craftily intertwining the government’s achievements to provide a future work plan may form a big part of Modi’s speech on Wednesday.
His interviews to two mainline dailies last week give ample indication that he would not mince words or spare the fragmented opposition. However, he will have to effectively repudiate opposition charges on the Rafale deal, mob lynching and the issue of reservations for scheduled castes and tribes and backward classes for which earlier bill were amended. The political churn in some key states like Uttar Pradesh to forge a ‘mahagatbandhan’ — grand alliance of sorts — may also weigh on Modi while he makes his speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort.