Last night, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had an interaction with CBFC chief and well-known lyricist Prasoon Joshi as the moderator. The event called ‘Bharat ki baat, sabke sath’ was broadcasted live from the iconic Central Hall in Westminister, London. With this address, Prime Minister Modi has followed the footsteps of legendary speakers and acclaimed greats such as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Junior. This iconic building, a major global venue, is also the site of first ever United Nations General Assembly in 1946. This interaction was ubiquitous in the sense that the Prime Minister took direct question from Indian citizens at a live event. From this iconic world stage, the prime minister minced no words. He interacted quite frankly and like any confident world leader, he did not avoid any particular topic.
The interaction started with the moderator wondering about how Prime Minister Modi began his life by toiling away at a railway station and how he had risen the ranks to be invited to the Royal Palace in London. Prime Minister Modi however, did not try to take any personal credits for this. He paid tribute to the largest democracy of the world. He clarified that the person fighting it out at the railway station was Narendra Modi, but the person in the Royal Palace of London is the sevak (servitor) of 125 crore Indians.
Responding directly to a question, Prime Minister Modi accepted that there is impatience among the citizens of India for quick development. He welcomed this impatience and encouraged people to become ambitious. He also admitted that the day he ceases to be impatient, he will be of no use to the country.
PM Modi’s address:
The Prime Minister stressed on the need to include the masses in the process of development. He highlighted the fact that where the development is for the masses, the masses must be intimately connected with it. He elucidated that the government is only an instrument of development.
It should not be considered that the government alone must do everything. It is instrumental in bringing change but the government is not the only agent of change. Prime Minister Modi took the example of how well-to-do Indian citizens gave up gas subsidies, coming to the rescue of the downtrodden. At this stage Modi, took a sharp yet graceful dig at the Congress president and spoke about how a leader wanted to take off by talking about increasing the number of subsidised cylinders from 9 to 12. This was suggestive of Rahul Gandhi’s short sightedness and constricted thought process.
The highlight of the event in London was how he answered a question on surgical strikes put up by an impaired person. Prime Minister Modi thundered at the iconic platform about how Pakistan killed Indian soldiers who were sleeping in a tent during the Uri attacks. He commended how the Indian army and the Special Forces avenged the martyrdom of the brave hearts. In a major dig at Pakistan, Prime Minister Modi made it clear that before informing anyone about surgical strikes, senior military officials informed their Pakistani counterparts and asked them to collect the dead bodies of terrorists if they wanted do, and the Pakistani officers were apparently hesitant in answering the Indian officials. What must be noted here is the fact that unlike the claims made by the opposition, Prime Minister made no effort to take political credit for the strikes.
In fact, the tenor of his speech was replete with respect for the security forces, deep sorrow for the martyred and anger against the export of terror from Pakistan. When asked to comment upon the political conspiracies and theories hatched by the opposition against the surgical strikes, he made it clear that the platform is not to be used for political remarks but hoped that good sense prevails among those who politicised this issue. The Prime Minister’s eloquence was at its best with this reply even as the hall resonated with the chants of ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ and ‘Vande Matram’.
There have been attempts in the recent past, especially after the Kathua gang rape, case to project Prime Minister Modi as misogynist. In fact, there has been shameful politicisation and communalisation of rape cases. However, during this interaction in London, Prime Minister Modi took on this claim by quoting hard facts and making reasonable arguments. He expressed genuine shock and desolation over how a heinous crime like rape can be committed and that too even on infant girls.
At the same time Prime Minister Modi articulated that there should not be any petty politics and mud-slinging over such a sensitive issue. He further reiterated as to how the government has taken up tasks such as toilet-building under the flagship scheme Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and arrangement of gas stoves only for ensuring that the women of this country are not made to suffer any longer. It was also mentioned how 18,000 villages did not have electricity when Prime Minister Modi took over. Therefore, the sad reality was that many women did not have access to toilets. Prime Minister Modi expressed that these tough realities did not let him sleep and made him determined to bring about positive change.
In what may prove to be a telling blow to the Congress before the Karnataka elections, Prime Minister Modi replied to a question put up by Santosh Patil from Karnataka regarding the contribution of Bhagwan Basaveshwara. To this, the Prime Minister replied that Bhagwan Basaveshwara dedicated his life to people and worked to unite them despite all kinds of differences. Ealier, the prime minister had paid tributes to the seer’s statue in London.
What made this interaction in London all the more special was how Prime Minister Modi was able to connect with the audience and those watching him live all over the world at a personal level. Prime Minister Modi displayed top-notch eloquence and ability to connect with the prospective audience at will. He was graceful and cautious in ensuring that no political remark is made from the prestigious stage. However, where it became absolutely necessary, he did take a few potshots and digs without naming anyone but still making a heavy impact. In the course of the interaction, some difficult and rhetorical questions did come up but every question was answered convincingly.
In fact, in the process Prime Minister Narendra Modi shattered several myths and narratives that his opponents had been building up for quite some time now. It included questions on political controversies surrounding the surgical strikes, the issue of women safety and the questions of poverty eradication. This should set warning bells ringing for the opposition. Prime Minister Modi was speaking at a formal platform and did not even openly take on the opposition. Yet he was able to demolish them. At this rate, the opposition can only imagine the wrath that they will have to face in the run up to the 2019 elections, when Prime Minister Modi will be taking on the opposition in a politically charged atmosphere without any limitations.
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