Why I feel Modi gave India the best Independence Day speech

Being unwritten, the prime minister's address to the nation was quite casual and informal.

 |  4-minute read |   15-08-2015
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Coming just two days after the depressing Monsoon Session of Parliament, which adjourned sine die on August 13 without transacting any meaningful business, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's second Independence Day speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort was quite refreshing. It generated some hope among the people who saw the Opposition parties, particularly Congress, disrupt Parliament proceedings on almost all the 18 days that it met, and the government failing to strike a compromise with them. However, Modi's speech was different and here are the reasons why:

1. No bulletproof enclosure

For the second year in a row, Modi refused to speak from a bulletproof enclosure. People had got used to watching his predecessor Manmohan Singh making his Independence Day speech from inside the bullet proof enclosure. But Modi stunned one and all last year by rejecting the enclosure. And it requires ultimate courage to do so. It helps instil confidence among the people about the law and order situation in the country. It also sends out a message outside the country about the nation's internal security condition.

2. No written speech

One had got used to watching Manmohan Singh read from written speeches year after year. Hearing anyone do so is highly boring because such speeches are monotonous. It is during such speeches that one dozes off. It also reflects poorly on the speaker. However, speaking extempore requires confidence. For the second consecutive year, Modi delivered an unwritten speech. He did not even use teleprompters which he takes help of occasionally during his foreign trips.

3. Refreshing address

As a result of the speech being unwritten, Modi's address to the nation was quite casual and informal. At times he enlivened the atmosphere by his repartees. For instance, he laughed at himself saying he was made fun of when he spoke of toilets during his last year's address. "People laughed at me, saying what kind of a PM is he, who speaks about toilets from the ramparts of Red Fort on such an occasion?" Though Modi spoke for roughly 90 minutes (from 7.32am to 8.59am), his speech was not boring or monotonous. It had variety. Modi was loud and bold when he spoke about not a single rupee corruption charge levelled against his government in the past 15 months, he was awed by the children when he credited them with giving maximum strength to Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and the poor for depositing Rs 20, 000 crore in their bank accounts even though they are "zero balance" ones. He called it "gareebon ki ameeri". He sounded statesman-like when, speaking about electrifying 18,500 villages in the country within 1,000 days, he refrained from naming the states which had lagged behind on this count.

4. Report card

The PMs have been making announcements on every Independence Day. But the nation never heard them presenting a report card. Perhaps it was for the first time that a PM had volunteered to present an evaluation of the promises he had made in the previous year's speech. Critics may question the authenticity of the claims he made, but Modi presented an account of the accomplishments of the tasks he had promised last year, like building more than 4.25 lakh separate toilets for girls and boys in 2.65 lakh schools, opening bank accounts of 17 crore people under the Jan Dhan Yojana, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and constituting a special investigative team (SIT) to unearth black money under the watch of Supreme Court within one week of coming to power.

5. Timeframe

We have perhaps never heard any PM giving timeframe for carrying out a work, more so the announcements which were made on Independence Day. However, very much like last year, Modi gave a time bound target for completion of the announcements he made today. Last year, he had given a year's time for building separate toilets for girls in schools, this year he promised a 1,000-day deadline for electrifying all villages in the country.

6. Breaking protocol

How many times did we see Manmohan Singh or his predecessors break the protocol and mingle with school children who brave the heat, dust and humidity since early morning to add colour and joy to the occasion? Never. But like previous year, Modi, before returning from the venue, went among the children, shook hands with them and exchanged pleasantries. A wave of school children swarmed towards him, inadvertently pushing him backwards by a few steps before the security personnel took over charge and stopped them. We also saw the PM taking quite a large number of red-carpeted steps all the way to the podium instead of using lift to unfurl the National Flag. The sight of an agile and healthy PM is certainly pleasant.

7. National Anthem

Observers who have been closely watching the Independence Day celebrations at the Red Fort for several years now claim that it was also for the first time that the National Anthem was sung even after the PM's speech. Earlier, it would be sung only once - just after the PM hoisted the National Flag and before s/ he delivered the customary speech. The programme would end after the speech got over. But this time, the programme ended with the National Anthem being sung again.

Writer

Kumar Shakti Shekhar Kumar Shakti Shekhar @shaktishekhar

Delhi-based journalist with more than 20 years of experience in reporting for print, TV & digital media.

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