In an interview to India Today and Aaj Tak group, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was asked by the interviewer whether the issue of development disappeared from BJP’s campaign as the national security had taken the center stage. Prime Minister Modi’s reply was sharp when he said, in any rally he had addressed, development or Vikas has remained a talking point. He elaborated that, while he takes a few minutes to deliberate on the national security issue, which he considers very important for the nation, the greater part of his speech does include developmental issues.
Whose claim is correct here? Did the development issues really disappear from BJP’s campaign as some opinion-makers and a section of media have been trying to project? Whether the media itself has refrained from reporting the developmental talking points from PM Modi’s speech and is later blaming BJP for making this election only about national security?
When we analyzed the campaign speeches of PM Modi, the key takeaways emerged as below.
- Pitting the issue of national security against development a false binary created by media
- PM Modi’s speech did stress on national security issues, but has provided equal space for developmental issues as well
- In his first speech in Meerut, he spoke about achievements in a single stretch for about six minutes in which he started with security and deliberated it for a minute or so and went on to touch upon other developmental issues. This has been the pattern of most of his speeches barring some exceptions.
- While reporting the rally speeches, it is the media that took the headlines convenient to them and the party had nothing to do with that.
Out of more than 50 rallies Prime Minister has addressed so far, even if one chooses to pick 8-10 rallies randomly and analyze the entire speech of PM in those rallies, it becomes amply clear that development issues have indeed constituted a major chunk of his speeches.
When PM Modi kickstarted a series of rallies on March 28 from Uttar Pradesh’s Meerut, he had said in front of the gathering that while he came for giving all the accounts of his five years’ rule, he would also like to seek the accounts of those who ruled India for decades (‘sab ka hisab dunga, dusronka hisab bhi lunga’ ). In the first rally itself, the works that PM Modi listed out in his achievements, are given below. Although national security and surgical strikes etc., indeed found the top mention in his speech, he also went on to give the specific accounts of his development works. These are the brief versions of the achievements he enlisted in his Meerut speech.
- We did surgical strikes in land, air, and space.
- NDA fulfilled the 4 decades-old demand of OROP to soldiers.
- 50 crore families covered under Ayushman Bharat – 5 lakh/year
- 34 crore bank accounts under Jan Dhan whereas the people who did not even offer an account to poor are promising money in the accounts, which cannot be trusted.
- 7 cr+ women: free cylinder under Ujjwala
- Toilets to 10 crore families ensuring dignity to women
- 1.5 cr+ poor got affordable pucca houses
- 2.5 cr+ houses got an electricity connection for the first time
- 15 cr+: Mudra loan to generate self-employment
- 10% reservation EWS
- Honest taxpayers are rewarded with the measure of tax zero up to 5 lakh income
In the subsequent rallies, PM Modi not only continued this practice of giving accounts of developmental works to people, but also made some comparisons with local development work. For instance, in the Mahabubnagar rally on March 29, while giving out all the developmental works that took place at the national level, he had asked the gathering, “we gave 1.5 crore houses under PMAY – Telangana Govt said they will give flats. How many flats were delivered?”
Then again while campaigning in Andhra Pradesh on March 29, PM Modi went on to list out all the development works done for the newly reorganized state by the central government. His speech went like this:
- In 2014, you all voted me in as the PM and Polavaram project got cleared in the first meeting itself.
- In Anantapur, first National University was approved by the Chowkidar
- In Kurnool, Indian Institute of Information Technology, Design, and Manufacturing was approved by the Chowkidar
- Mega Solar Power Park in Kurnool and Anantapur: was fulfilled by the Chowkidar….
In the same tone, he had listed out at least 10-15 state specific developmental projects in his speech.
A particular rally of PM Modi in Maharashtra’s Wardha on April 1 had stirred up a media and social media conversation around the subject of ‘Hindu terrorism’, of which the PM spoke attacking the Congress for inventing such a slur to insult a peaceful community. But if you hear the speech from the beginning, PM Modi first spoke about the developmental issue, especially the effort his government had made in the region with the irrigation projects, even before he touched upon the issue of ‘Hindu terrorism’. In his speech, he had made the following points.
- Your chowkidar is working day and night to ease your life. Kapas/Toor/many other crops have been given MSP.
- Van Upaj MSP has also been increased.
- 1.25 cr+ farmers have already received PM Kisan Yojana to help you meet farming expenses.
- To fight the drought problem, PM Krishi Sinchai Yojana was conceived. Under this, 99 irrigation schemes were being worked upon of which 26 are for Maharashtra. I did this while Sharad Pawar as the Minister of Agriculture in UPA government, did nothing about it.
Even after this, if media thought that the comment on ‘Hindu Terrorism’ was worth the headline, then why blame the BJP or PM for any particular narrative?
On April 16th rally in Bhubaneshwar, PM Modi in his speech gave the state-specific data of development. In brief, the following are the facts that he had put forth.
- 3 lakh crore investments in oil and gas plus tourism
- 8 lakh own pucca homes in Odisha under PMAY
- 35 lakh+ Ujjwala connections in the state
- Development of smart facilities in Bhubaneswar, gas-based economy, and the pipes gas project will be expedited
PM’s development narrative was very much intact in his campaign speeches in the north-east regions as well. For instance, in Assam where illegal immigration and NRC have been prime talking points in the public discourse, PM did take time in giving an account of the welfare and developmental benefits the state received under his government. The following are the points PM Modi touched upon while speaking at the public rally in Dibrugarh on March 30.
- In 70 years only 40% of homes in Assam were electrified. Today it is almost 100%
- In 70 years only 40% of households in Assam had access to the gas connection. Today it is 85%
- 27 lakh people in the state have access to Ayushman Bharat
- 50 lakh MUDRA beneficiaries have created self-employment for youth
- 5 lakh people in the state own pucca houses
- Including Dibrugarh and Jorahat, 24 lakh farmers of Assam will be beneficiaries of PM Kisan so that they don’t have to take expensive credit
The six specific speeches mentioned above are just examples. Almost all the speeches of PM Modi exhibit a pattern where PM takes time to deliberate upon the development that has taken place under his government with definite figures. Therefore, there is no substance in the argument that PM Modi and BJP had made the issue of national security the sole talking point, and neglected talking about development issues.