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Narendra Modi's Independence Day speech: Ten things prime minister can't say at Red Fort, but he must

Forget Narendra Modi’s Independence Day speech. A speech is a speech is a speech. There are things he can say in a speech. There are things he can’t. I can think of ten things that he can’t say, but which must be the subjects of resolutions he must make for himself, even if he chooses to keep them close to his famed 56-inch chest.

I. No third-person use, please

Modi must stop referring to himself in the third person or by his own name. Only emperors and kings of yore relished it, despite its narcissistic tinge. Modi has no megalomaniacal predilections like an Indira Gandhi or a Jayalalithaa — may their souls rest in peace. His references to himself in the third person may be more due to his rustic simplicity than any secret dream of turning himself into a monarch of all that he sees. But Modi must resolve to stop this.

File image of Narendra Modi. Reuters

File image of Narendra Modi. Reuters

II. Fifteen months left to prove himself

Modi must pull up the sleeves of his kurta and get down to some really serious business. In his fourth year as the prime minister now, he can’t rest on his laurels, presupposing a cakewalk in the next General Elections to Lok Sabha virtually in the absence of an Opposition. India will go to the elections sometime in March-April 2019. But considering the 'alliance musical chairs', budget making, and Election Commission’s code of conduct that will precede the polling, leaving him little time for governance, Modi probably has just 15 months left. That’s all the time he has to prove that he has made an impact on people’s lives, which so far he hasn’t. He must resolve to begin to do it now.

III. Economy: stop playing with numbers

GDP figures, export-import statistics and shop talk about macro and micro economics, cash balances and development imbalances are Greek and Latin to the men on the street. What people understand are the jobs they can get, the basic amenities they can use like roads, and, as Gorakhpur reminded us, healthcare (to name a few). They want development that they can see for themselves and measure, not through the abracadabra of statistics, which both the BJP and the Opposition use, to communicate different things.

IV. Hindutva: India can’t eat and breathe it

Hindutva is a jolly good thing as long as it means junking the Congress-Left pseudo-secularism based on minority appeasement and vote banks, and as long as it means true secularism based on equality of religions and delinking state from God and religion. It’s a shame if it means anti-minority-ism and Hindu chauvinism of the kind some Sangh Parivar elements espouse. Modi must resolve to be a true secularist, with no fear of losing his core 'Hindu vote'. He can more than makeup for any such loss with votes from truly secular people among Hindus and other communities.

V. Mukts vs bhakts

Modi needn’t get uptight each time his fans are referred to as bhakts. That’s because this name-calling is done by mukts or withouts. They are without any ideology, bankrupt of new ideas and wallowing in the now-irrelevant dogmas of either a Marx or a Nehru. Modi must treat the mukts like a good Gujarati would treat a dragonfly in his plate of fafda and jalebi.

VI. Stop being obsessed with minorities

Leave the minorities alone, please. They are not the others. They are like the others. Most Muslims are like most Hindus. They all get up in the morning, brush teeth, eat breakfast, go to work and worry about catching a bus or the prices of tomatoes and onions. There are fringe elements among Muslims, just like there are fringe elements among Hindus, who eat and breathe hatred. Modi must win over the minorities. He must prove that the talk of the BJP being anti-minorities — not entirely baseless going by some of the Sangh Parivar men’s statements — is a lie.

VII. Beware of sycophants

Success attracts sycophants like a lamp attracts flies. A leader who surrounds himself with sycophants is asking for a load of trouble. At the cost of sounding clichéd, I must say that a good leader must graciously welcome constructive criticism. That’s what Modi must do. That’s what will make him different from (Xi Jinping of) China, where dissenters are tossed behind bars. Modi must resolve to prove his critics wrong, who accuse him and his party of enjoying the company of only head-nodders.

File image of Narendra Modi. US president Donald Trump and Japan prime minister Shinzo Abe. Reuters

File image of Narendra Modi. US president Donald Trump and Japan prime minister Shinzo Abe. Reuters

VIII. Go for US-India-Japan axis

China’s aggressive postures and its transformation of Pakistan into a virtual colony has left India, more than ever before, with no option other than making friends with the US and Japan. Stay in all the trade alliances that you are in, but get into a long-term military alliance with the US and Japan. The trio can be a potent bugbear to China. Modi should Work on Israel too to join the party, and the grouping will be invincible.

IX. Opposition-mukt Bharat?

Modi must stop harping on a Congress-mukt Bharat. Gandhi dynasty scion Rahul and his able colleagues are doing everything they can to help Modi make India Congress-mukt. So, ridding India of Congress is no huge achievement, making India great is. A Congress-mukt Bharat sounds more like Opposition-mukt Bharat. And that’s scary. A robust democracy needs an Opposition. (Modi’s stock would have shot up in people’s minds if he graciously passed BJP’s extra votes to Ahmed Patil and helped him win his Gujarat Rajya Sabha seat, instead of letting Amit Shah play snakes-and-ladders games.)

X. Not to worry about the Left

Left? I can see you reaching for a magnifying glass to look for it. Well, it’s as good as gone, really. India is almost Left-mukt, if you want to put it that way. Living in a 18th-century la-la land of an imaginary revolution, believing in a fossilised ideology whose right place is the world’s political dustbin, and providing the much-needed comic relief by parroting stuff like "neoliberalism", the Left is no threat to anybody except itself. It will soon become as scarce as frog’s teeth. Modi must resolve not to react to what this left-out party says or does.

The author tweets @sprasadindia

Updated Date: Aug 15, 2017 07:48 AM

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