It might still be early to call it the beginning of 2019 campaign, but the SURGING INDIA speech of Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered at the first Republic Summit in Mumbai Tuesday, marks contours of what his re-election pitch is likely to be as we head into 2019.
In picking up from the multi-window format of news TV, Modi framed two windows for India pre and post 2014. In his own words, "take any parameter, the work done in the last four years is quick, effective, and people friendly." In reeling out numbers, from electrification of all homes to toilets built with never before speed to roads and railways, the Prime Minister underscored the speed-and-scale aspect of his government.
In narrating the tale of two friends in a jungle caught showing a gun license to a lion without an actual gun, Modi sharpened the juxtaposition between the mindset before 2014 and after.
While in the former statute was substance, now the accent was on action. In Rafale verdict and Christian Michel extradition, he sees an endorsement of a clean and transparent government he has headed. In sum, the last four and a half years of Modi government's nuts-n-bolts job has brought India at the cusp of an inflection point where post-independence political slogans of Roti-Kapda-Makaan and Bijli-Sadak-Pani can make way for aspirations finally.
How much of this is going to be an election winner for Modi? This question gains significance in the backdrop of just concluded Assembly elections which saw a Congress comeback in the Hindi heartland on the back of farm loan waivers and unemployment doles.
Having observed his governance for more than 16 years, I can say with some authority that giving sops is not the Narendra Modi model. It puts a greater premium on providing enablers - like the Mudra loans - than create dependant architecture that was put in place by the Sonia Gandhi led NAC in UPA era.
If the Assembly results are a measure of people's predilection for socialist era welfarism, then it's a challenge that would need a Modi response before he hits the campaign trail. Given it was first major speech after the results, PM's announcement of recalibration of GST to make it more poor and middle classes friendly by bringing 99% of goods below the 18% slab gave a hint of a course correction.