Intro: Modi spoke as a leader who understands the problems of the land and is determined to tackle them and is capable of doing it.
So Narendra Modi gave his first Independence Day message from the Red Fort. He mesmerised his listeners not only on the spot but thousands of them sitting in their homes and watching television.
Business Line (August 6) took the trouble to quote several listeners. Think of these to get an idea of what they felt. Omar Abdullah: “Modi’s speech at Red Fort is one of the best spectacular debut since Sourab Ganguly’s century at Lords.” Tavleen Singh: “The best August 15 speech I have heard in forty years of political journalism.” S Gurumurthy: “Wish he really changes title like ‘Ministers’ as ‘Sevaks’ and his title as ‘Pradhan Sevak’ by a constitution change.” Vinod Sharma: “No script, no bullet-proof glass, no puppeteer. No one between leader and people….”
Said The Hindustan Times (August 6): “It was the perfect note to strike – the man from a poor family unfurling the tricolour from the ramparts of the magnificent fort built by a Great Emperor.” Continuing it said: “Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day speech was confident, substantial and delivered extempore with great pizzazz. After the somnolent performance by past Prime Ministers, this was an electrifying one… The fact that he was able to bring so much to the table within a few short months of assuming office is commendable. If this is a blueprint for India, it is certainly. And it would seem that he will lead by example if his punishing work schedule is anything to go by.”
The Hindu (August 16) was similarly all praise for Modi.It praised him for not belittling the achievements of his predecessors and, said he seemed keen to move ahead on the basis of consensus rather than on functioning on the basis of his party’s majority in Parliament.
The Asian Age (August16) said “Modi chose not to tinker with or revamp the Planning Commission to adjust to changing times. He got rid of it wholesale by replacing it with National Development Reforms Commission. This is the strongest signal he can send to the country’s private sector and to international capital that they can move centre stage on the economic template of the world’s most populous democracy that the market is set to attain primacy of places in the next leg of India’s development.”
The Times of India (August 16) acknowledging that the Independence Speech was made “by a Prime Minister born after Independence” said “expectations from him were sky high and Narendra Modi did deliver, while posting some surprises along the way. The paper said Modi “also broke with the formulaic fetishing of diversity” and spoke “to a shared national character by speaking to shared shame like rapes”.
In its concluding remarks the paper said Modi “has sent a message across the border too” and that was “instead of fighting each other, let’s fight poverty together”.
The Indian Express (August 16) in a detailed study of Modi’s address said it had laid down “a new agenda for aspirational India”. There was, said the paper “no ambiguity” in the Prime Minister’s address. Modi, said the paper, “gave a clear signal that he has done his homework to implement the social sector agenda outlined in the BJP election manifesto.”
DNA (August 16) said Prime Minister Modi made an impressive debut at the Red Fort ramparts. “It may be” said the paper, “reasonably argued that Modi has lived up to the keen sense of expectations…. Modi as Prime Minister must regularly and repeatedly articulate his views, irrespective of political implications. Only then can the full might of the state quell violence in all forms and influence a perceivable change in social mindset.”
The Economic Times (August 16) said that Modi “now wants to replace the Planning body with a think tank whose focus, presumably would be on policy choices to the exclusion of investment outlays”, adding that “it is welcome that the new government is building on the electronic banking infrastructure… to offer every household a bank account.”
(The writer is a senior journalist and former editor of Illustrated Weekly)