In his second Independence Day speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid tribute to ‘Team India’, the country of 1.25 billion. Without the help of ‘Team India’, he argued, neither the goal of ending corruption nor bringing electricity to 18,500 people will be achieved. The prime minister spoke at length on having fulfilled some of the promises he made a year ago that include fulfilling financial inclusion through the opening of 170 million Jan Dhan Yojana bank accounts and launching insurance and pension schemes, besides the construction toilets in schools, which is part of his Clean India Campaign.
Without going too much into the merits of his claims, Modi was right by emphasizing that the ultimate measure of a government is how well it tackles poverty. Allied with the idea of tackling poverty, the prime minister made a clear reference to the issue of financial inclusion for the farmer, youth and those employed in the unorganised sector, among others. On the subject of financial inclusion, Prime Minister Modi did make some interesting points. One was his desire to include Dalits and women as entrepreneurs through credit targeting by banks. Unlike promises for government jobs, the shift towards building capacities is something that continues to resonate with large sections of the populace. However, the details for such an initiative have not been forthcoming. Moreover, Modi renamed the Ministry of Agriculture as the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, while stressing that the government would work to increase areas under irrigation to ensure “per drop, more crop” and raise overall farm productivity.
Although some political commentators have lamented Modi’s silence on the foreign policy front, one must understand that the crucial Bihar assembly elections are on the horizon for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). By listing out his achievements, with a special emphasis on tackling poverty and improving the lives of especially those in the farm sector, Modi articulated that his concerns lie on the domestic front. After his party’s decimation in Delhi, Modi is looking for succour in the unforgiving political climate of Bihar politics. To such an extent, it is no surprise that Modi took on large sections on the media, whom he accused of creating an atmosphere of gloom and pessimism in the country. There are two sides of the coin, regarding the media. On the one hand, there are some in the media who have been unable to come to terms with his ascendance to power, thereby maintaining an element of prejudice. On the other hand, the Modi government has not reacted very well to criticism,
despite claims of transparency.
Nonetheless, the prime minister will continue to face flak for his inability to implement the One Rank One Pension scheme for retired servicemen. Thousands of retired military personnel were left disappointed after the prime minister said that he agreed with the OROP scheme in principle, although negotiations for it were ongoing. As a result, thousands of ex-servicemen continue to pile the pressure on the NDA government to implement OROP, saying that they were only demanding their rights. The Modi government, on its part, has been slow to address the issue to its natural conclusion, following the sudden realisation that the payout would be immense. If we can’t take care of those who serve and protect our country night and day then there is a reason for concern as to the government’s policy priorities. Moreover, on the issue of corruption, there was conspicuous silence from Modi on the allegations against senior party leaders.