MODI EMERGES AS A GREAT ORATOR
After long years – more than a decade – both the houses of Parliament heard a prime minister speak extempore, without notes or even talking points; Narendra Modi’s maiden speech, heart rendering and reassuring, was example of powerful oratory. His reply to the debate on the President’s address was, perhaps, the best in his political career, marked by clarity, striking of right note on development, no evidence of triumphalism and invention of new phrases like – allegations are bad but criticism is never, Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat, Scam India to Skill India and the country is bigger than our parties… let us put the bitterness of the past behind us.
Manmohan Singh, having a brilliant record as an economist, scholar and a thinker, could hardly make an extempore speech. One wonders why a suave and scholarly Singh could not speak extempore like much less educated Modi. Doubtless, the former prime minister’s speeches were full of substance and intent of purpose, but he lacked oratory and expression and, therefore, could not make desired impact in public. Of course, Atal Behari Vajpayee, as prime minister or out of office, was the best orator in Hindi. Compare him with Modi and difference is evident; Vajpayee was idealistic and Modi pragmatic.
P V Narasimha Rao was, in true sense, a ‘philosopher king’, a linguist and an original thinker and a visionary. His powerful oratory was never in doubt but he could not inspire people when he spoke from public platform. On the other hand, Narendra Modi, miles behind Narasimha Rao in scholarship, could sway masses and bring some to tears.
Indira Gandhi, by all standards, was a poor speaker, known for inconsistency, often grappling to find words, repeating ideas. Reporting her was night mare for correspondents covering her, including this columnist. Gandhi’s standing complaint was that she was always misreported by the Press but she jumped from one idea to other so often that it was difficult for reporters to catch the real purpory of her expression. Those who understood her mind could report her in correct perspective. Despite all the shortcoming, she was darling of masses and mammoth crowd turn up at her public meeting. Though lacking oratorical skill, she was a vote catcher, could sway the masses. The reason of her success was that she could establish direct rapprochement with the masses, which even Narendra Modi is not able to do despite powerful oratory and mass appeal. Rajiv Gandhi had charisma, could sway masses but his life was snuffed out too soon; before he could fully bloom as a mass leader.
In his reply to debate on the President’s address, Modi wisely skirted contentious issues – at least for time being – like compromising article 370, uniform civil code and Ram Mandir, indicating that he is on right track and is not being dictated by Nagpur. Most notably the prime minister reached out to Muslims. He did not consider policies that targeted the community’s persisting backwardness as ‘appeasement’ because the health of nation depended on addressing the well being of its weakest part. This could be a consequential shift in the way BJP speaks of, and speaks to, India’s largest minority.
The BJP could not have fielded a worse speaker than Rajiv Pratap Rudy to initiate the debate on the President’s address. He, perhaps, crossed all limits in sycophancy in praising Modi, often forgetting that he was speaking on issues arising of President’s address. So much so he had to face an hostile opposition, asking the Speaker, Sumitra Mahajan, to tell the BJP member to come to the point and desist from adulating the prime minister. Rudy praised Modi, saying that the prime minister is firm like the steel man of India (Sardar Patel) and compared him with legendary Angad whose feet nobody could lift. One wonders if the prime minister will reward Rudy and include him in his government? Contrary to expectation, leader of the Congress party (not opposition), Mallikarjun Kharge, made a brilliant speech, attacking the BJP over its political rhetoric. He warned that Modi-led government not to underestimate the Congress strength despite being reduced to 44. ‘Do not make the mistake of thinking the Congress is down and out. Kauravas were 100 but it was Pandavas who ultimately won the Mahabharata war’. He was giving his reply to Rudy who had dubbed the Congress as a regional party which could only get 44 seats.
In the Rajya Sabha, finance minister and leader of the house, Arun Jaitley, sprang a surprise by praising former prime minister, Manmohan Singh. He also decoded the result of recent elections saying a single party got majority on its own after 30 years because, unlike previous elections, this election was not about arithmetic of alliances but more about changing chemistry on the ground. Traditional vote banks have been smashed; those who governed badly and thought caste politics would save them had been trounced. Jaitley invented catchy phrases like ‘winner must never be arrogant, loser must not be bitter’.
The leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, too made an impressive speech. Accusing the Modi-government of ‘copying’ the agenda of the Congress of the last 10 years, he claimed that the UPA government had already implemented 90 per cent of the schemes and policies listed out by the NDA.