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Seven Ways PM Modi Set the Tone for 2019 Lok Sabha Campaign

With Lok Sabha elections less than a fortnight away, after addressing three rallies in the day, Prime Minister Modi has kickstarted his national campaign through his first television interview given to a private channel. Speaking his mind on several issues surrounding the upcoming polls, here are seven key ways in which PM Modi has set the tone for the next two months.

A new normal in national security

Without doubt on the question of national security, PM Modi underlined the era of a new normal in national security.  Unlike earlier government’s prevarication and dilly-dallying on questions of national security and terror, the Balakot airstrikes in response to Pulwama was a clear sign that it was not going to be business as usual any more. The implication was that there was not going to be any compromise or soft-pedalling of issues impinging on our national security. When the interviewer insisted on what the next course of action was going to be, the PM refused to part with matters of national security although at the same time, the body language was indicative enough that the strategic community was certainly on top of this subject at this moment and was in no mood to let the momentum of Balakot slip away. Against the backdrop of earlier governments holding back our strategic and the scientific community, the government was not going to hold them back any more, drawing a new normal in terms of national security.

Action not words has to speak for Pakistan

In a related point, when asked on the purported overtures of the Imran Khan government to offer talks with India and the Indian government giving the former the cold shoulder, the PM did not mince his words when he exhorted Pakistan to show through action and move beyond words. PM Modi spoke of how in his congratulatory conversation with Imran Khan had reminded the latter that Pakistan had repeatedly failed, both through wars and terror, to upset the Indian development journey and the country had remained the fastest growing major economy in the world. He had advised Mr Khan to shun terror and instead fight poverty together with India. At the same time, they had to demonstrate real action on the ground against forces inimical to India’s interests. Importantly, the PM made it clear that there was no fight with people of Pakistan.

Accusation of Model Code violations reflects poor understanding of Opposition on governance

On being probed on the accusation that the opposition parties had made about his using the A-Sat test for political mileage, the PM had asked the opposition in return whether they thought that governance could be held hostage to model code of conduct (MCC). Did the opposition think that the matters of national security could be held back because of MCC? Or if there was a natural disaster, the rescue efforts could wait for the MCC to go? PM Modi referred to the lack of understanding of how governance worked among the opposition leaders. Particularly on A-Sat, he explained that it was not a sudden announcement at all. In fact, the global strategic and space communities have to be notified in advance about such launches given the interlinked nature of operations in space of different countries.

On the finer points on a dynast party

There is no doubt that the issue of family and dynastic parties is not going to go away from the upcoming poll campaign. In this respect, PM Modi made a distinction between some family members working for the same party and one whole family running a party like a private company. The latter was what worried him most since no top position, whether of President or a treasurer, was given to anyone outside that family. He particularly mentioned the TDP and acknowledged the same phenomenon in Samajwadi Party when the interviewer added.

Credibility of Congress’s ‘Big’ Announcements

When asked how he was going to counter the recent promise of a big sum to the poor, the PM simply questioned the credibility of the Congress’s latest promise going by their track record. The PM revealed how in 2004 and 2009 poll manifestos, the Congress Party had promised direct income support to farmers, a promise which was eventually fulfilled by his government. Also, he spoke of his government having a proven track record of poverty alleviation in a matter of mere five years while the Congress kept singing the poverty tune for 5 decades with little to show for it.

The true picture on jobs

In the same vein, when he was asked to reply on jobs, PM Modi referred to the past how media at the behest of a section of political class had given a false picture of job creation during the Vajpayee government and had misled the people. He asserted how jobs had been created through examples of EPFO data, doubling of construction of roads and railways and the momentum on solar energy industry.

Transcending beyond politics to statesmanship

Above all, the interview had reflected the personality of PM Modi as a statesman when he sought to put the country above party. When he declared that Sarkar ke liye bahumat, desh ke liye sarva mat chahiye, indicating his willingness to work with even the most bitter political rivals, the PM was sending a profound message to the political class. In stark contrast, only weeks before, several of the opposition leaders had questioned the government and even the armed forces over Pulwama and Balakot allowing their petty political interests get the better of national interests.

Thus, through the interview unlike the opposition, PM Modi had set a constructive nation-building agenda for the upcoming polls.