Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day address focused primarily on national progress based on self-respect and self-confidence. Of course, the speech had its usual political element – he never fails at that – but there is also a larger, more significant message. As always, it was a call to the common people to adopt a unified approach to development over the next twenty-five years. As in the case of the Independence Movement, in which the goal was freedom from colonial rule, he exhorted everybody to work together for a developed India. He identified certain shortcomings that come in the way of achieving this goal, which include poor self-esteem and a ‘sense of servitude’. Indeed, the role of any coach or mentor is to work on keeping morale high. The basis for this, of course, would be pride in one’s legacy. These are among the ‘five pledges’ he has asked Indians to take on the journey to achieving India’s national destiny.
A common element in Modi’s leadership style from the beginning has also been his focus on social reform – if it was providing toilets to the poor at one stage, which imparted much needed dignity to the vulnerable sections, his latest appeal is for giving due respect to women. In this context, he also underlined the development benefits of women’s equal participation in all spheres of activity.
A corresponding factor in ensuring progress is also the adoption of meritocracy, for which he exhorted Indians to get rid of ‘nepotism’ and the corruption it breeds. Considering that much of the political opposition that the BJP faces is family and caste based, the exhortation serves more than one purpose. He is certainly right in asking people to hold the corrupt in contempt, instead of continuing to provide them respectable space in social and political circles.
Modi also, very rightly, focused on the youth as the force that would bring about the desired change, as they are the ones who will, either, benefit from success, or suffer the consequences of failure. Psychologically and culturally well-oriented, young people will find it easier to identify their goals and have the motivation to achieve them. While it cannot be said that all of the goals set by the Prime Minister in the past years have been fully achieved, it must be said that there has been considerable social transformation at the grassroots. Economically, the great recent achievement has been the swift and robust recovery after the Covid years. A resolute advance towards the PM’s declared goals should generate the energy necessary to achieve them.