'Andolanjivi' to 'foreign destructive ideology', PM Modi chooses his targets with care

The speech was a master play in separating the wheat from the chaff. Modi chose his targets carefully, aiming at the bullseye, not the sport; at the problem-makers, not the people.

Abhijit Majumder February 08, 2021 18:54:36 IST
'Andolanjivi' to 'foreign destructive ideology', PM Modi chooses his targets with care

File image of Narendra Modi. Twitter@NarendraModi

When Prime Minister Narendra addressed the Rajya Sabha in New Delhi on Monday, his message was not just for all Indians, but also at those sitting far and wide in world cities and carrying out what seems to be one of the most concerted and vicious campaigns against his government and this nation.

The speech was a master play in separating the wheat from the chaff. Modi chose his targets carefully, aiming at the bullseye, not the sport; at the problem-makers, not the people.

He was reconciliatory towards farmers but acerbic towards those he called “andolanjivi”, or professional, rent-a-cause agitators. He cautioned leaders from the states of these “parasites” operating sometimes in the frontline, sometimes from behind the curtains.

Much of his speech dwelt on external forces trying to destabilise India, unsettle a popularly elected government. He turned the word FDI on its head from foreign direct investment, warning against “Foreign Destructive Ideology”.

More importantly, he delinked Sikhs from his attack on separatist movements like Khalistan, which he did not mention in his speech. He lauded the Sikhs’ contribution to the nation, reiterating India will always be the home of the community.

He then navigated into a finer and crucial differentiation: that between rich farmers and small and marginal ones. He said the new farm laws would help the latter, who did not get loans or politically-motivated loan waivers. While the rich farmers got free water and subsidised electricity from governments, the small and marginal ones are sometimes forced to buy water for irrigation from the rich farmers at arbitrary prices.

The torpedo in the subtext of Modi’s speech was aimed at the mostly affluent Punjab farmers and middlemen who are at the forefront of the recent protests. And who did he reach out to? The 12 crore small and marginal farmers who own less than 2 hectares each and comprise 86% of the agricultural force.

For the entire farming community, he spelt out loud the conciliatory promise on the contentious minimum support price: “MSP tha, MSP hai, MSP rahega.”

While assuaging the domestic constituency of the poor, farmers, Sikhs and even the Opposition (he praised JDS’s Deve Gowda, NCP’s Sharad Pawar and Congress’s Ghulam Nabi Azad), Modi’s fiercest attack was reserved for his enemies abroad.

“Indian democracy is not a western institution. It is a human institution. There are mentions of 81 democracies in our ancient texts,” he said. “We need to make Indians aware of the attacks on our nationalism from all sides.”

He quoted Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose: “Indian nationalism is not narrow, selfish or aggressive. It is inspired by the credo of Satyam, Shivam Sundaram.”

The robust defence of democracy was the highlight of his speech, given that a number of foreign celebrities have tried to build a narrative of the Modi government being undemocratic.

“They say India is the world’s biggest democracy. We feel good to hear it. But we have not taught our youth that Bharat is the mother of democracy,” he said.

More than a prime minister tearing into his Opposition, on Monday Modi was the man trying to heal, soothe, separate the troublemakers from the patriots, and appealing for solutions than seeing the nation sink to the seabed with the rock of negativity tied to its ankles.

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