Narendra Modi’s Independence Day Speech — Jor Ka jhatka dhirey se laagey

ThIis certainly was not Narendra Modi’s best speech — though it was not sleep inducing either as some have criticised. Yes, it was inordinately long — lasting nearly 90 minutes (as per the CJI’s watch). I have a defense for that — but will hold it till later.

I also respectfully disagree with the Chief Justice that, the Prime Minister should have dwelled on the problem of delay in appointment of judges in the higher judiciary. Pardon my saying so — it sounded almost like a Arvind Kejriwal-ish comment who thinks every issue of his concern should be on top of the PM’s agenda. Judges appointment is certainly an important issue — but not the only issue that is plaguing the judiciary. If the PM had indeed chosen to speak on what ails the judiciary — he might have opened a pandora’s box that may have consumed all of his hour and a half address to the nation.

In my limited view— all mass communication outreach of the Prime Minsiter — be it Mann Ki Baat, Townhall or Independence Day Speech — are guided by a common objective — to make himself heard to the “last man standing” (to use Modi’s own expression) without distortion by Mainstream Media (MSM) — who have not been exactly kind to him over nearly a decade and a half. Unfortunately, not all his colleagues in the party are capable or willing to carry the message to the people — so Narendra Modi has to take the task upon himself. Thus — if the trade off is between disappointing the elite audience or media celebrities and over-communicate on the government’s achievement to the nation at large — it is no surprise that he would gladly choose the latter over and over again. I for one would not double guess Modi’s judgement as a communicator.

However, even assuming the PM did manage to put Mr Kejriwal and some of his friends (like Saba Naqvi — who tweeted that she had indeed dozed off before the TV) to sleep — he did wake up the world with his gentle references to #Balochistan, #Gilgit and #POK. The redoubtable Shekhar Gupta was the first to tweet about the “Tectonic Shift” in India’s Baloch policy — to be followed by others in national and international media before Twitterati took over. By the evening — the TV Channels were primed up with the usual suspects from either side of the LOC. But, the most surprising comments came from Congress — whose former Foreign Minister , Salman Khurshid (of Biriyani in Jaipur fame) — commented Human Rights in Balochistan is an internal matter of #Pakistan.

That Narendra Modi could set the cat among the pigeons by such a light touch (a classic instance of “jor ka jhatka dhirey se laagey”) shows the class he has attained as a global geo-political player in such a short time. For those who actually heard the speech — all that the PM said was a “thank you” to the people of Balochistan, Gilgit and PoK for their “greetings” on #IndiaIndependenceDay. There was no reference to or comment on the internal situation at those places — to get people so worked up.

What he achieved in the process is to openly redefine India’s terms of engagement with Pakistan on Kashmir. Now — as the very knowledgeable and astute — former R&AW Chief commented — if we can only sustain this approach.

It is this one master-stroke alone that makes the Prime Minister’s speech on the 70th anniversary of India’s independence so significant and memorable.

Jai Hind !!