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Politics

PM Modi Versus CM Nitish: Notes on Two Independence Day Speeches

The two leaders' speeches differed remarkably, possibly because of the varying degrees of media attention on them.

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Patna: The Independence Day speeches of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar showcased the starkly different personalities of two Indian leaders who simply cannot sail together.

Of course, the differences in the two speeches were brought to harsher perspective thanks to the fact that Nitish recently dumped Bharatiya Janata Party, the party of the prime minister, to get back to the Janata Dal (United)-Rashtriya Janata Dal-Congress-Left mahagathbandhan.

In his speech, Nitish focused employment, infrastructure, health and the drought-like situation brought by the scanty rainfall of this monsoon. He talked about “giving 10 lakh jobs” and creating employment opportunities with the support of the private sector in such a manner that about 20 lakh youths of the state get employment.

“Tejashwi is with us. Our concept is clear on the issue – we will give employment to 10 lakh youths as promised by him. But we want to take it to 20 lakh or even beyond by involving private sectors and creating more employment opportunities,” he said.

Prime Minister Modi talked about his “vision of how India will be like in the next 25 years” but didn’t use the words ’employment’ or ‘unemployment’ even once. Nor did he use ‘price rise’ or touch upon farmers’ plight in the wake of the poor monsoon in large parts of the north India, the falling value of Indian currency, the incursion by China into Indian territory and the overall slowdown of the Indian economy.

The prime minister blissfully skipped mention of a large number of his own promises – some made on previous Independence Days – in the last eight years. They include concrete houses with toilets for all, electricity and potable water to each and every Indian by the Independence Day of 2022, employment to two crore per year, doubling of farmers’ income by 2022, and ending black money.

Also read: At the Red Fort, Modi Unveils an Extraordinary Edition of His Personality Cult

Some of the most quoted sentences PM Modi said are as follows:

  • “Pride of Nari Shakti will play a vital role in fulfilling the dreams of India. Respect for women is an important pillar for India’s growth. We need to support our Nari Shakti’.
  • “Freebies will prevent the country from becoming self-reliant, increasing the burden on taxpayers.”
  • “We will continue our tirade against corruption.”

Veteran socialist leader and national vice-president of the RJD, Shivanand Tiwary, says the difference is in the degree of media attention given to the two leaders.

“Narendra Modi makes promises on one Independence Day and forgets them. Again he makes fresh promises and forgets them. But he enjoys impunity in the media. On the other hand, Nitish or Lalu or Tejashwi are always under the scanner of media, they can’t escape…they don’t have the kind of leverage with the media that Modi has,” Tiwary said.

Electoral success as justification for failure

Electoral success of the BJP in the national and state elections is used to testify for a leader’s performance.

In Nitish’s election campaigns, he usually seeks votes for the work he has done. “Even a labourer seeks his wage at the end of his day’s work. Pay me my wage by voting in my favour if you feel that I have done my work for you,” is a common Nitish refrain at election time.

His campaign speeches note his government’s work on roads, highways, bridges, and embankments, and in the education and health sectors.

Nitish also has the habit of recalling his pre-election manifesto promises in his speeches in the assembly.

Prime Minister Modi and his party campaign differently.

Doles to the poor coupled with brazen polarisation has so far been working for BJP in election after election.

For instance, journalists and political observers can very well remember the popular mood in Uttar Pradesh about two months ahead of the assembly elections in February this year.

Farmers were up in arms, the prolonged farmers’ movement had bridged the divide between Hindus and Muslims in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli regions of western UP, youths were agitating against unemployment and former BJP allies like O.P. Rajbhar, Swami Prasad Maurya and others had shifted to the Samajwadi Party.

Also read: In O.P. Rajbhar’s Zahoorabad, Caste and Religion Allegiances Have Turned on Their Head

The SP chief, Akhilesh Yadav, was getting enthusiastic crowds at his election rallies, leading to many experts calling the polls in favour of Akhilesh.

But Modi and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Adityanath turned the tables.

Religious leaders at the Haridwar Dharma Sansad gave an open call for the genocide of the Muslims. Adityanath himself called the elections as “20% versus 80%” – UP has 20% minorities and 80% are Hindus.

The Prime Minister himself surfaced in the garb of sadhu in saffron, attacking Aurangzeb and hailing Shivaji at the Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi. He and many RSS-BJP functionaries turned ‘historians’ overnight, reeling off tales of Muslim ‘barbarism’.

So vitiated by polarisation was the atmosphere that a young girl in a hijab at a Karnataka college shouting, “Allah-u-Akbar” against the RSS-BJP hoodlums chasing her became an issue in the UP elections too.

While taking the communal rhetoric at its height the Union government made allocations in the Union Budget 2022-23 for the distribution of five kilograms of free ration – rice, wheat, gram, salt and refined oil – among the voters, twice. Besides, it paid Rs 2000 twice to beneficiaries of Kisan Samman Yojana ahead of the polls.

Also read: Jobs, Education, Cattle and Lord Ram: Perspectives from the Field in Uttar Pradesh

Challenges

Whether or not Nitish-Tejashwi perform or not, it is a foregone conclusion that BJP will attempt to polarise the electorate along religious lines ahead of the next polls.

While both Nitish and Lalu Prasad are highly respected leaders across the communities in Bihar, they can hardly put their guards down against Narendra Modi at election campaigns. Moreover, having been in power at the Centre for over eight years now, the BJP is in control of more resources and riches to work with the voters.

Plus the Enforcement Directorate, the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Income Tax department, which Tejashwi has described as the “cells” of the BJP, remain threats.

Nitish and Lalu will have to work very cleverly in the run up to the 2024 elections. Tejashwi may have matured but he is too young to offset the challenges that might be thrown by the BJP’s huge organisation and resources.

Nalin Verma is a senior journalist, author and professor of journalism and mass communication at Invertis University, Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh.