The Prime Minister’s Independence Day speech this year started with a salute to our martyrs, followed by fulsome praise and gratitude to the Armed Forces for keeping our country secure
There is something about Independence Day that brings the focus back squarely on the Armed Forces. Not just at Red Fort in Delhi, but in state after state of our union, the visuals on the TV show the flag, the politician, framed and bracketed always by senior members of the three wings of the Army, Navy and Air Force.
It is they, above all, who have kept this country united and independent these 72 years, often despite the short-sighted antics of politicians.
The Prime Minister’s own speech this year started with a salute to our martyrs, followed by fulsome praise and gratitude to the Armed Forces for keeping our country secure.
While, in the course of his speech, which laid out many of his government’s achievements over the last 50 months, he took credit for implementing the long pending OROP, and let us hope that he has taken note of the unprecedented court case filed by 350 soldiers.
They have moved the Supreme Court against having cases filed by civilians against the Armed Forces personnel doing their duty in good faith and coming under the auspices of the CBI.
The Armed Forces have always been allowed, till very lately, to do their own disciplining and policing, conduct their own enquiries, hand out judgements and punishments; all outside the purview of civilian courts.
This in all saves exceptional cases, where the Armed Forces themselves have deemed it necessary to hand over a case to the civilian Judiciary.
This move, therefore, to involve the CBI across the board is seen by the Armed Forces and many other observers as a betrayal.
On the other hand, given the demand to bring the Armed Forces to heel under the politicians, not just by criticizing AFSPA where it is applied, it may be a good thing for the Supreme Court to examine the case on merit.
The Supreme Court will hopefully come down on the side of the autonomy of the Armed Forces. For then, the likes of former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti of Jammu and Kashmir, and others looking out for the rights of Maoists, for example, cannot file cases against the Armed Forces in civilian courts.
Mufti may be motivated to pander to her perceived political constituency of separatists and separatist sympathizers, rather than the principles of equity and impartial justice.
But the darker implication being aired is that the Armed Forces would tend to shield their own, despite blatant wrong-doing or overstep of orders.
The government on its part may be seeking constitutional support from the Judiciary to let the Armed Forces do its duty unhindered. This, despite the political clamour from Leftist elements in the Opposition.
In any case, given that the political classes have instituted near universal immunity from prosecution for themselves, particularly as parliamentarians, they should certainly absorb the sentiment.
To add civilian law to the supremacy of the civilian government with regard to the Armed Forces is a way to both adversely affect morale, and attack the effectiveness of the Armed Forces.
On India’s 72nd Independence Day, Prime Minister Modi made his overall pitch for another term in office with a confidence that seemed to indicate that there was little chance that he would not be making his 6th address from Red Fort on August 15, 2019.
Not only did he make extensive comparisons from the state of play in 2013 under the UPA, but seemed to blithely gloss over the unkempt promises of his administration, from a platform that positioned him above the Party he represented.
He seemed to say, and it is difficult to refute this, that what he has accomplished in just four years is in any case unprecedented. And he has a lofty vision for India that he will see through in the years to come.
A very similar stature accrued to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi during her long innings typified perhaps by the infamous and toadying Emergency era slogan “Indira is India, and India is Indira”.
However, Modi’s perceived claim to tower above the BJP/NDA government has indeed manifested after just some 50 odd months in office.
One reason is certainly that he has repositioned the sociological “Idea of India”, code for the Nehruvian world-view of Secularism that favoured the minorities at the expense of the majority; into a “New India” in his own right.
In this view, the key notion is “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikaas”, code for doing away with the raw deal for the Hindu majority.
This has certainly struck a chord with the broad population of the country, and accounts, along with Modi’s transparent honesty, for his unwavering popularity and ratings in the high seventies.
This is why Modi will win another term in office in 2019, aided of course by huge resources, the party apparatus under confidant Amit Shah, and the RSS machinery under Mohan Bhagwat. It is also because the public wants Modi to make this profound course correction stick nationally.
This is irrespective of the fates in the coming Assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh. These Assemblies may well go to a floundering Congress, partly because the public has grown weary of the Chief Ministers, and the relentless wages of anti-incumbency.
But these losses, if they come, will not put a dent in the way the voters in these states, and elsewhere, vote in the general election to the favour of Narendra Modi.
If he enjoys a stature larger than his party, it is because he has demonstrated a vision and persona that has cast him as a man of destiny come to take India to its rightful place in the comity of nations.
Modi harped on the dramatically changed international perception of India during his tenure, the promise of tremendous and transformational economic upliftment, and even planting the Indian flag in manned space flight by 2022.
The big picture, like the eternally charismatic JFK, seems to belong to this gifted politician, underpinned with a very strong nationalist streak. The thrilling possibility of climbing higher from 6th largest economy to the third in the coming decade or so is decidedly uplifting for all.
Mock as the opposition might Modi asserted that farm incomes are indeed being doubled universally via MSP mechanisms. He is working on a massive health insurance programme, dubbed Modicare by the media. Universal electricity, gas, rural infrastructure, Swacch Bharat toilets by the millions, universal housing, universal connectivity via the Internet are proceeding apace.
There is a squeeze, of course, to finance some of this. Direct taxpayers have doubled, indirect tax evasion has been struck over the head via GST, black money is under pressure with the Benami Act with teeth.
Economic offenders are cornered with the bankruptcy and insolvency acts. Economic absconders are being collared.
Modi’s greatest advantage is the singular lack of similar or even an alternate vision on the part of the Opposition, reduced to a default position of criticism of the Prime Minister and his ‘lies’, rather than anything constructive of their own.
They are therefore in no position to give content to the renewed Independence Day patriotic pledge and cry of Jai Hind!
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Last Updated 9, Sep 2018, 10:24 AM