Ahead of 2019, PM projects himself as an impatient agent of change

NEW DELHI: In a virtual election speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday projected himself as an impatient agent of change against the backdrop of “docile and inefficient” governance during the Congress-led UPA rule and promised housing, power, water, sanitation and healthcare for all in his mission to take the country to new heights.

“People make senseless criticism against me. But whatever may be said, I want to publicly acknowledge that I am restless because several countries have marched ahead and I want to take the country ahead of them. I am impatient because children are still suffering from malnutrition. I am eager to provide quality of life and ease of living to countrymen. I am impatient to provide health coverage to each of the poor so that they can fight against diseases. I am eager because we have to lead knowledge-based fourth industrial revolution,” he said.

In the nearly 80-minute speech, Modi devoted much of his speech in presenting the report card of his government, highlighting that the country made fast progress in sectors like economy, defence and social justice.

“When 125 crore people move towards achieving a goal, there is nothing that cannot happen. In 2014, the people of the country did not just stop at forming the government. They moved together towards nation-building and are continuing to do so,” he said.

He also announced that the ambitious Prime Minister’s Jan Aarogya Abhiyan (PMJAA), dubbed “Modicare”, for health insurance coverage of Rs 5 lakh each to 10 crore families, will be launched on September 25 on the 102nd birth anniversary of Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, the co-founder of Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the BJP’s predecessor.

Making his last Independence Day address of his tenure to the nation ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Modi said there was “senseless” criticism against him but asserted he was impatient and restless to take the country ahead of many others which had overtaken India.

Quoting Tamil nationalist icon Subramania Bharti, Modi said in Tamil, “India will show the path to the world in ridding it of its problems.”

Breaking his silence in the context of recent cases of rape and sexual exploitation in welfare homes in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, Modi said there was a need to attack such a mindset by putting the fear of the law that had been made stringent. He said the law was supreme and no one could take it into their hands.

Referring to Jammu and Kashmir, Modi again reminded that the Kashmir issue can be resolved only by embracing its people, not with bullets or abuses. He recalled former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s line `Kashmiriyat, Jamhooriyat, Insaniyat’ (eclectic Kashmiri culture, democracy and humaneness) and said this was the only way forward.

Reaffirming his mantra of “sabka saath, sabka vikas” (take everyone along, development for all), the Prime Minister said there would be no discrimination against any section and there would be no nepotism and favouritism.

“I want to reiterate my pledges – housing for all, power for all, cooking (gas) for all, water for all, sanitation for all, skills for all, insurance for all, connectivity for all. We want to go ahead with these programmes.

Modi turned poetic before winding up his nearly 80-minute speech, saying that the country’s fortunes were being transformed.

“We have to make a new dawn and create a new India. We want to move ahead with the dream of reaching the crescendo of development.”

Attacking the Congress but not by name, he said if a comparison was made of the speed of governance in the last four years, people would be surprised.

If toilets were built at the speed of 2013, several decades would have gone to reach the present stage. Rural electrification would have taken two decades. Taking LPG connection to poor women would have taken 100 years. Generations would have gone to take optical fibre to its present levels. There are a lot of expectations, a lot of needs. The country is feeling a change in the last four years. There is new awareness, new enthusiasm.”

He said four times more rural houses had been built, there was a record number of mobile manufacturers, record number of aeroplanes had been procured and a record number of tractors sold.

Among the dignitaries present at the Red Fort included BJP president Amit Shah, his wife who was sitting next to Congress president Rahul Gandhi. Former prime ministers Manmohan Singh, H D Deve Gowda also attended the celebrations along with cabinet ministers, chiefs of the three services, the top echelon of the judiciary, civil servants as well as thousands of school children.

“The demand for higher MSP (minimum support price) for farmers was pending for years. From farmers to political parties to agriculture experts, everybody was asking about it but nothing happened. The decision was taken by our government to provide the MSP of 1.5 times of production cost.”

Modi said the Army, which reaches out to people in case of natural calamities, also conducts surgical strikes to give a befitting reply to its enemies, an apparent reference to the surgical strike conducted on terror launch pads across Line of Control in 2016.

In a strong election pitch, Modi reached out to Dalits, poor, youth, farmers, women, fishermen, security forces, middle class and upper middle class by referring to the work done by his government and his endeavour to improve their lives.

Modi also attacked the opposition over the non-passage of triple talaq bill in the just-concluded monsoon session of Parliament and promised to do justice to Muslim women by getting it passed early.

Alleging that the previous governments had allowed a climate of corruption to thrive, the Prime Minister said his government had eliminated power brokers from Delhi and plugging loopholes in various schemes like Public Distribution System that had led to savings of Rs 90,000 crore. “The corrupt will not be forgiven.”

The measures initiated by the government had also led to near doubling of direct tax assesses from nearly four crores to 6.75 crore and indirect tax assesses from 75 lakh to 1.16 crore on account of the introduction of GST apart from barring over three lakh suspicious companies in the anti-black money drive.

He announced that India would launch a manned mission in space by 2022 — it could be a man or woman — and a satellite dedicated to helping the fishermen.

The Prime Minister said India was earlier seen among the fragile five nations because of policy paralysis but now it had turned itself into a “land of reform, perform and transform”.

“We are all set for record economic growth. India’s voice is being heard effectively at the world stage. We are integral parts of forums whose doors were earlier closed for us.”

PM Modi also announced the permanent commissioning of women in the armed forces and a plan to send Indian astronauts into space by 2022.

“Women officers inducted into the short service commission(SSC) will get the opportunity for a permanent commission like their male counterparts,” the prime minister said.

He did not elaborate whether it will be applicable to women in combat roles or in non-combat fields such as IT, military police, engineering etc.

September 25, the birth anniversary of BJP ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhyay. He said the scheme will initially cover nearly 50 crore people from 10 crore families.

He also announced the permanent commissioning of women in the armed forces like men.

Referring to recent incidents of rape, the prime minister said the law is supreme, and asserted that the society must be free from this “demonic” mindset. He hailed
recent judgments by fast-track courts to hang rape convicts. He made no specific mention of recent cases of lynching — another hot-button topic being debated in the country.

Modi also highlighted his government’s efforts to protect interests of Dalits and backward classes — the two communities being wooed by the ruling BJP ahead of the crucial elections– and said the recent parliament session was totally dedicated to social justice.

(With inputs from agencies)

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