Apart from presenting the performance report card, President Ramnath Kovind’s Presidential address in Parliament on Thursday also reflects fresh thinking within the ruling establishment on its agenda for the next five years.
Narendra Modi government has done well in providing insight into its electoral plank while seeking a second term in office. Given that this is the last Parliament session before general elections were notified, Modi government has effectively used Kovind’s speech to address its core constituency of voters.
Citing strong performance in last four and a half years on socio-economic management especially with signature projects of Narendra Modi may be a way for BJP-led alliance to seek yet another term in office. President Kovind reeled off figures, facts and data to drive home the achievements of Modi government across sectors. Similarly, he gave a peek-view of the “new India” centric campaign that BJP led by Narendra Modi may launch in the elections. Six major pointers to the election campaign that may get reflected in the budget on Friday and amplified in NDA manifesto have been cleverly drafted into Presidential address. For instance, providing basic amenities to all in terms of food, shelter, clean drinking water, health and education etc may be promised by BJP-led NDA in the general elections. Already, Modi government had initiated plans for providing housing to all through a PM’s initiative in both rural and urban areas. Already, 1.30 crore houses constructed for the poor was highlighted as part of NDA agenda to provide shelter for all by 2022.
Health, education and security have also been identified as yet another focus area for BJP-led NDA that has already begun a massive restructuring of health infrastructure and carving lakhs of additional seats in higher institutions of learning. Interestingly enough, providing security against abuse especially of women seem to have been added.
Prime Minister Modi’s team seem to be addressing the aspirational new generation voters while promising to nurse the talent and carve out new opportunities for advancement.
Issue of deprivation and children’s safety could become part of “New India” campaign that Modi government plans to unleash in near term. Most global reports point to malnutrition, illiteracy and other weak social development indicators for Indian children. Recent World Bank report pointed to malnutrition and illiteracy of one in every five children in India. Also, economic and social deprivation has been a serious issue that needs to be tackled head on. Lack of safety and hygiene has had deterred several families from sending their girl children to schools.
Providing justice and life with dignity could be fifth aspect of ‘New India’ campaign that the government and BJP are trying to push. Judicial system has been flawed and much desired judicial reforms might have to be kicked off by the new government that takes charge in May this year. Huge pile up in pending cases across courts in states and Supreme Court has led to inordinate delay in delivery of justice. Criminal justice system will have to be overhauled with reforms in police and getting the force ready to become community friendly.
President Kovind also spoke about a ‘New India’ that commands respect globally. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s huge outreach with the diaspora last four years could help India become an important player internationally. Building economic muscle and spreading its linkages as a ‘soft power’ will be the best option. Jingoistic mis-adventurism may not work in an interlinked world especially when Indian economy was open, flexible and kicking.
In all, BJP and government seems to be preparing seriously to take on the united opposition challenge by seizing the first opportunity to sell its vision of ‘New India’.