PM Modi’s Red Fort speech reinforces impression he’s entirely out of touch with reality

PM Narendra Modi’s speech about ‘five pledges’, delivered on 75th Independence Day from Red Fort, means nothing for millions of famished, homeless citizens of India

Illustration by artist Orijit Sen
Illustration by artist Orijit Sen

Sushil Kutty

Prime Minister Narendra Modi must have burned the midnight oil to think up his ‘five pledges’ to turn India into a country of his dreams by 2047, independent India’s centenary year. And these ‘pledges’ appear to have limped away from the basic goals of education, health, jobs and shelter.

The word that comes to mind is ‘esoteric’. Modi confirmed that he is distant from the lives of ordinary people, abstruse and mystic. An alternative would be the phrase ‘dream on’.

Modi dropped his ‘five pledges’ one by one on the heads of the invitees to the ID-extravaganza fit for a developing country of India’s standing — emerging economic superpower, except for the rupee which can’t stop itself from plumbing the depths in its showdown with the dollar.

Of course, in Modi’s lingo, the five pledges are ‘paanch praan’, five keys to unlock the life-saving potential of India’s demographic dividend in the next 25 years when the majority of the demographic would be in their 50s, and Modi himself in the 100+. In Modi’s turn of phrase, the ‘paanch praan’ is crucial for India’s development; indeed, to India’s future.

And, effortlessly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi slipped in the cliché “130 crore Indians” to emphasize the intent forcefully. The right words fell from the Prime Minister’s golden tongue: ‘unite’, ‘love for the country’, ‘fight against discrimination’, slavery’, and ‘fellow citizens’.

The iconic Red Fort, now witness to more empty words than there are loaded ones in the dictionary, would testify that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ninth I-Day address was not much different from the eight that preceded it.

Except that the dreams have become loftier. Such that one could be excused for being Kafkaesque! Franz Kafka left a body of work that spelled ‘failure’ in its essence. The greatest Kafkaesque was that the human being was bound to leave things incomplete; it came naturally to man.

The irony is that the incomplete phrase applied to Franz Kafka as much as it applies to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In fact, unless you’re a literary genius, you would miss the woods for the tree in the Kafkaesque. Much like so many of us missed the economics in the Modinomics, which at least had a pakora at its core, something tangible to hold.

Unlike the ‘paanch praan’, the ‘Five Modi Pledges’, which are…1) Work for India’s development; 2) Eradicate slavery/subjugation, all forms colonial baggage; 3) Display pride in India’s heritage; 4) Achieve unity among 130 crore Indians; 5) All citizens, including PM and CMs, be model citizens; do their sworn duties.

And to round it all, Modi bound them with “we have to keep India first…paving the way for the nation to be forever united”.

The Red Fort had two mechanical elephants at one of its gates—one better than the nuts-and-bolts lion that symbolized Modi’s ‘Make in India’ campaign. That Gir lion is not to be seen these days! Is it a sign of change in the offing? Indeed, Prime Minister Modi’s ‘paanch praan’ leaves everything to the imagination.

Which is another way of saying that it will remain one of the many mysteries of Modi-rule that even after eight years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi still succeeds in giving the impression that he is unaware of the bread and butter wants of the teeming millions. Does the Prime Minister know, has he been told, that India has the most number of “extremely poor” in the world?

Modi’s Pledge No.1 is “work for India’s development”. The thing to note, however, is that Modi as usual was talking in election stump generalities. Nothing in India’s development of the past eight years was worth spelling out. Talk of ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ and the world’s most number of extremely poor wouldn’t have a roof over their heads to fly the tricolour was a given!

Shelter like jobs is a mirage too far for crores of Indians. And jobs, like shelter, are sold by the crores to desperately aspirational Indians, like ‘ache din’ was, from the election pulpit. The number of jobs Narendra Modi promised while selling “abki baar…” could make a couple of Sri Lankas, but the ‘Mood of the Nation’ surveys, somehow, never gets the number of jobs created by Modi right!

Ask Franz Kafka and he would say how ‘metamorphosis’ is more than ‘paanch praan’ said in a vacuum. In the story, the protagonist is deserted by everyone because in ‘his’ insect state, he could no longer be the provider to the family—his presence was no longer required. The moral of the story is: a country of extremely poor, living in stark sight of a miniscule number of powerfully rich, are likely to soon get tired of a deficient provider’s empty promises.

(IPA Service)

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Published: 16 Aug 2022, 8:20 PM