Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s big message in his Independence Day speech on Sunday involved taking the path of Sahkarvad, or cooperation, through people’s participation, and making available to citizens all government schemes such as bank accounts, health insurance coverage, social security net, LPG, housing and piped drinking water.
This was a key thought as Modi said it was time to move away from the binaries of Poonjiwaad (capitalism) and Samjawad (socialism) and adopt cooperation coupled with ‘minimum government’ as a means to progress. Modi as the Prime Minister has not said this for the first time — he has been a strong votary of ‘minimum government, maximum governance’, quite contrary to what a politician with a brute majority relishes far more — an overwhelming state.
BJP would focus on 100% saturation of key government schemes such as Ayushman Bharat, Ujjawala LPG Yojana, PM Awas Yojana, Har Ghar Jal and PM Kisan Nidhi in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Modi mentioning the aspect of aiming for 100% penetration of the central schemes could act as the trigger going ahead for the concerned government departments to escalate work in this regard. For instance, about 16 crore have so far received Ayushman Bharat cards, about 1.53 crore houses have been completed in rural areas under the flagship Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, there is over 40% progress in Har Ghal Jal scheme of piped drinking water and about 10 crore farmers have been covered by PM Kisan Nidhi scheme — and it is all work in progress.
PM announcing fortification of rice distributed under government schemes such as Public Distribution System (PDS) and Mid-Day Meal by 2024 is the government’s priority to provide nutrition to every poor person in the country. And more Sanik Schools will be opened to allow girl students is seen as a stepping stone for young people to make a career in armed forces.
The PM also singled out mention of small farmers, labourers and hawkers in his address, envisioning all benefits must reach them. An aspirational pitch was to launch 75 Vande Bharat trains by August 2023 that would take fast train connectivity to nearly all parts of the country. At present, there are only two Vande Bharat trains.
The Strategic Messages
PM Modi steered clear of naming Pakistan or China but his words on countering both terrorism and expansionism sent out the message that India has acted strongly when it comes to its sovereignty or integrity. The PM also mentioned about the preparations for polls in Jammu & Kashmir highlighting that a proper delimitation process would be followed to give an elected government to J&K — something made clear to all political parties of the erstwhile state in a meeting with the PM earlier this year.
The fight against Covid-19, the ongoing vaccination programme, and the announcement of the National Hydrogen Mission are other key features of the PM’s speech.
Modi’s opponents would read the speech, especially the parts where he spoke of India’s development trajectory in the run-up to 2047 when the country marks its 100 years of freedom, as a message that Modi and BJP are in for the long run. The way Modi has turned India’s 75th year of Independence celebrations as the Amrit Mahotsav is a lesson in how nationalism can be channelled.