Emotions Ran High During Speech
The gesture of respect while entering Parliament was as traditional culturally as it was politically unique — political leaders have not been known to “pay respect” to India’s democracy in such a dramatic fashion.
Emotions were high during Modi’s acceptance speech to BJP’s parliamentary board, for Modi and for assembled Bharatiya Janata Partyleaders, when he said it was not he who did a favour to the party — as LK Advani had said in his speech — but it was the party that did a favour to him. Deploying again a culturally well-understood metaphor — respect for motherhood — the PM-designate said, “…like India is my mother, BJP is my mother, too…how can a son do a favour to a mother?” It was BJP that made a “poor boy” reach where he has today, Modi said.
And Modi, in a subtle but powerful message, telling his party colleagues that post victory, BJP should be about collective unity, not personal divisions. “You can see me because party elders have put me on their shoulders,” Modi said, and he more than once thanked party elders and invoked Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the only other BJP PM in India. This was Modi telling his party that everyone’s on board as he gets to assume prime ministership. The take-no-prisoners politician who fought internal leadership battles in the party was not in sight. Neither was there any evidence of the Modi who fought a bitter battle of words with Nehru-Gandhis and their government. “Neither me nor BJP feels that the last government did nothing. Every government has contributed to India’s growth. I congratulate previous leaders, we will take their good work forward,” Modi said, who will be administered the oath of office by President Pranab Mukherjee on May 26 at 6 pm. This remarkably statesman-like observation was followed up with a stress on working together. “The country has already moved ahead, now it is up to us whether we want to move or not. I want to assure the people, let’s forget negativity… whatever may have happened in the past. This is an era of responsibility. It has already begun.” Equally significant was the message carried by his remarks that his will be a government for the poor. “We want everyone to progress, but we also want to take everyone along. We want to move forward with this slogan, ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’.” Modi, hailed by business and markets, was here giving an early signal that in optics and in policies his government will be far more than the label of “probusiness” his critics often have for him. There was also his more usual stress on Indians’ “innate talent” and the importance of creating opportunities for such talent in India, he remarked, as he has done many times earlier, that he’s an optimist and the country needs optimism. But it was the simultaneous stress on encouraging opportunities — a remark that’s pro-entrepreneurial — and working for the poor — a very strong political-economic message — that, among other reasons, made this speech both important and impressive.