“Poverty has no religion, hunger has no creed”

Putting the economy back on track is of paramount importance for the government, said President Pranab Mukherjee, addressing the first joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament on Monday.

Stressing that the people voted for a “united, strong and modern India,” the speech noted that they were “brimming with hope and expectation” and wanted “quick results.”

In the 55-minute address — the first structured articulation of the policy priorities of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government headed by Narendra Modi — Mr. Mukherjee reiterated the campaign promises of the Prime Minister such as job creation through tourism and manufacturing, skill development, 100 new cities and high-speed train networks. The President peppered his speech with slogans such as “minimum government, maximum governance” and beti bachao-beti padhao (save and educate the girl child).

Foreign policy

On foreign policy, the address marked a departure from Mr. Modi’s high-pitched campaign that had accused the United Progressive Alliance-II government of failing to stand up to China and even Sri Lanka, as it committed itself to building “a peaceful, stable and economically inter-linked neighbourhood” and “strategic and cooperative partnership” with neighbours, “including China.” The government also promised to bring “renewed vigour” in India’s engagement with the United States and to operationalise the civil nuclear agreement.

Restating an approach that Mr. Modi had enunciated soon after the victory, the President said the government was “dedicated to the poor” and the “first claim on development belonged to the poor.” “Poverty has no religion, hunger has no creed,” Mr. Mukherjee said.

The government also stated a commitment to making all minorities equal partners in India’s progress. It promised special measures to spread modern and technical education among minority communities. It also promised to pursue a policy of “zero tolerance towards terrorism, extremism, riots and crime.”

While the President’s address concluded with the optimism that in the next five years, the government would take special measures to spread modern and technical education among minority communities able to meet a lot of the aspirations of the people, it also set longer deadlines for some ambitious plans.

It said that by the time the nation completed 75 years of Independence — in 2022 — every family would have a proper house with water connection, toilets, and round-the-clock electricity supply. It has also promised to design a 10-year programme for infrastructure development. In his speech after being elected leader of the BJP Parliamentary Party, Mr. Modi had said he would seek to have two consecutive terms in power.

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