Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets the people from the ramparts of Red Fort during the 72nd Independence Day function, in New Delhi (Source: PTI)

Independence Day: Modi Makes Poll Pitch In Last Speech Of Term

In his last Independence Day speech before the Lok Sabha elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today presented a picture of India under his government, contrasting it with what he termed as “policy paralysis” under the previous United Progressive Alliance government.

Addressing the nation from the ramparts of Red Fort on the 72nd Independence Day, Modi announced his flagship health insurance programme, permanent commissioning of women in the armed forces and a plan to send Indian astronauts into space by 2022.

“When 125 crore people move towards achieving a goal, there is nothing that cannot happen. In 2014, the people of the country did not just stop at forming the government. They moved together towards nation-building and are continuing to do so,” the prime minister said.

In the nearly 80-minute speech, Modi devoted much of the time in presenting the report card of his government and also touched on a host of burning issues, including the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, crime against women, legislation on instant triple talaq and state of the farm sector.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi interacts with children during Independence Day celebrations at the Red Fort, in New Delhi (Source: PTI)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi interacts with children during Independence Day celebrations at the Red Fort, in New Delhi (Source: PTI)

Accused by the opposition of running a pro-business and pro-rich dispensation, Modi dwelt at length about his government’s initiatives to improve the lives of the poor and the backward sections of the society. He claimed that five crore people have been lifted out of poverty in the last two years.

Modi said negative reports about India, delayed reforms, fragile economy and red tape were the terms often used for the country under the UPA. Now, he said, India is being looked at as multi-trillion dollar economy offering red carpet welcome to investors.

India was earlier a sleeping elephant which has woken up now and started running
Prime Minister Narendra Modi

On Kashmir, the prime minister said, “We will move forward by embracing people and not by bullet and abuse (Goli and Gaali).” Hitting out at the prior Congress regimes, Modi said if the country moved forward at the same pace as in 2013, the last year of the UPA government, it would have taken decades to accomplish what has been achieved in the last four years.

Quoting the Tamil nationalist icon Subramania Bharti, Modi said in Tamil, “India will show the path to the world in ridding it of problems.” BJP president Amit Shah and his wife, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, former prime ministers Manmohan Singh and HD Deve Gowda also attended the celebrations along with cabinet ministers, chiefs of the three armed forces, the top echelons of the judiciary, civil servants as well as thousands of school children.

BJP President Amit Shah, Congress President Rahul Gandhi and other dignitaries during the 72nd Independence Day, at the historic Red Fort, in New Delhi (Source: PTI)
BJP President Amit Shah, Congress President Rahul Gandhi and other dignitaries during the 72nd Independence Day, at the historic Red Fort, in New Delhi (Source: PTI)

One of the big announcements Modi made was the rollout of Ayushman Bharat-National Health Protection Scheme, described as the world’s largest healthcare programme, on September 25, the birth anniversary of BJP ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhyaya. He said the scheme will initially cover nearly 50 crore people from 10 crore families.

He also announced permanent commissioning of women in the armed forces. “Women officers inducted into the short service commission will get opportunity for permanent commission like their male counterparts.”

He didn't elaborate whether it will be applicable to women in combat roles or in non-combat fields such as IT, military police or engineering.

Referring to recent incidents of rape, the prime minister said law is supreme while asserting that the society must be freed from this “demonic” mindset. He hailed a recent judgement by a fast-track court in Madhya Pradesh to hang a rape convict. He made no specific mention of recent cases of lynching—another hot button topic being debated in the country.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi receives the guard of honour before addressing the nation from the ramparts of Red Fort during the 72nd Independence Day, in New Delhi (Source: PTI)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi receives the guard of honour before addressing the nation from the ramparts of Red Fort during the 72nd Independence Day, in New Delhi (Source: PTI)

Modi also highlighted his government’s efforts to protect the interests of Dalits and backward classes—the two communities being wooed by the ruling BJP ahead of the crucial elections—and said the recent Parliament session was totally dedicated to social justice.

The prime minister said by 2022, India will send a “son or daughter” to the space with the Tricolour in hand.

Modi vowed not to spare corrupt and black money hoarders, saying efforts of his government have freed corridors of power from brokers, enhanced the number of taxpayers and saved Rs 90,000 crore by eliminating bogus beneficiaries of many schemes. He also thanked honest taxpayers for their contribution in the development of the country—which is now the world’s sixth largest economy.

Modi ended his speech with a call for housing, power, cooking gas, sanitation, health, connectivity and water for all and said his government is working with this mantra.