Between words and deeds

As he did in his first year as Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has used the occasion of his address to the nation on Independence Day >to talk up his government’s development agenda, offering hope to all and offending none. Last year >he promised governance based on consensus without relying on his party’s majority in the Lok Sabha. This time, despite the >rancour of the just-concluded monsoon session of Parliament, Mr. Modi adopted the same tone, insisting that if the country’s unity is destroyed the dreams of the people too would be. Casteism and communalism were mentioned in the same breath as ills facing the nation, and development was held up as the antidote. Without doubt, Mr. Modi made all the correct noises in his address, following the template he set last year. But if his speech is to generate the same level of hope, Mr. Modi might need to do more than just say the right things from the ramparts of the Red Fort. Without following up on his words with deeds, without ensuring that his ministerial colleagues and the entire government machinery live up to his well-articulated vision, Mr. Modi might find the magic of his oratory doing a disappearing act. Some of his Ministers do not seem to have any use for the political correctness that he has practised since coming to power. They seem to take after Modi the election campaigner, and not Modi the Prime Minister.

Although Mr. Modi renewed the emphasis on fighting corruption, starting from the top, the fact is that little progress has been made in putting in place institutionalised systems to prevent corruption. The >promise to bring back black money stashed abroad remains unfulfilled. Mr. Modi’s >dream of a Digital India, where people are united by information technology, is not any closer to reality than it was last year. Despite the strides made in providing toilets in all schools, and the impressive start to the financial inclusion scheme of >Jan Dhan Yojana, the achievements of the last one year have failed to meet the rising expectations — which the Prime Minister himself had fanned. Even as the >‘Make in India’ initiative is just beginning to gather steam, Mr. Modi has introduced a new catchphrase: ‘Start-up India, Stand up India’. True, unlike the previous government, the Modi government divides its attention among a fleet of programmes without putting all its effort behind one or two flagship schemes. Alongside the initiative to boost start-ups, Mr. Modi did not forget to mention the importance of raising farm productivity, and providing electricity and irrigation facilities to farmers. But the real challenge for Mr. Modi is finding the resources to give concrete shape to his words; and not finding new things to say on each Independence Day.

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2022 5:01:06 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/narendra-modis-independence-day-speech-between-words-and-deeds/article7547034.ece

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