President says it loud and clear
President Pranab Mukherjee’s address to the joint session of Parliament on Monday had the stamp of the current Modi-led government all over it. Not only did the trademark catchphrases, such as ‘minimum government, maximum governance;’ the four T’s (tradition, talent, tourism and technology); the three D’s (democracy, demography and demand), among other noticeable influences were seen characterising most of the presidential speech, there were also the messages that Modi, and not the obscurantist sections within the saffron brigade, had underscored earlier. Despite the economic slump and fiscal deficit, Mukherjee’s address was replete with social agendas, such as bringing in Bills including 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament and legislatures, improving women’s safety, bolstering criminal laws and criminal justice system, improving hygiene, sanitation, as well as empowering the minorities of all hues. Moreover, the president clearly spelt out that it’s the poor who have the prior claim on country’s resources, a reverberation of what the PM had said in his inaugural acceptance speech in Central Hall of Parliament. The commitments were reiterated, those of power, water, job, sanitation, better housing on one hand, while providing facilities such as irrigational or entrepreneurial help to boost productivity across the sectors. The address, therefore, voiced the best of both the previous regime, especially its pro-poor legislations and laws to embolden the middle section (which it later let down), and the current establishment, with its bullish approach to implementation and efficiency and coming down heavily on bureaucratic rot with the newly-legitimised single-window clearances.
Other heartening points to talk home about included the intentions to clean up the riverine systems, particularly the Ganga ecosystems, as well as setting up IITs, IIMs, AIIMS and more universities in every state. There is a technocratic sweep not seen since the grand nation-building exercise that the first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru had undertaken in the heydays of post-independent India. The grandeur of scale and vision was matched with a burning ambition to speed up the process of recreating India from the ruins of British empire. It was also about creating a massive political consensus, which, the current government has also managed to achieve under the flimsy but impressionable rubric of development. In sum, the presidential speech was a big departure from the fuddy-duddy of the old continuum in terms of both foreign
policy and internal polity.