Did the future erase the past in Indian politics on Thursday, the nation's 67th Independence Day? Narendra Modi's valiant retaliation at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over the latter's Red Fort speech was symbolic for it not only exposed the lightweight prime minister, but also in a way told that the days of empty announcements from the ramparts of the historic fort in New Delhi do not hold much significance.
The heights of the fort, 66 years after Jawaharlal Nehru made his speech on the first independence day, have been completely alienated from the ground reality and Modi perhaps is the first politician in the country who has asked the 'emperor': "Where are your clothes?"
Modi's scathing attack on Manmohan Singh's speech will remain memorable not only for its oratorical standard, but also because it has established an important fact and that is: A weak Centre can not take the ambitious states and its leaders in the Indian federal system for granted. Routine announcements are not going to help the central power to ignite the masses' imagination anymore and those unable to deliver from the top will be forced to make way.
The counter-speech of Modi after the country's prime minister spoke showed a unique trend unfolding in India. No regional leader had in the past directly challenged the head of the government and that too over the esteemed speech made at the Red Fort every Independence Day. This shows to what extent the important office of prime minister has been discredited in India today and how alternate voices have gained strength.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet blockquote"><p>Modi's oratorial skills in full flow: contrast with Manmohan is telling. One barely talks, the other is never short of words.</p>— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) <a href="https://twitter.com/sardesairajdeep/statuses/367863244318605312">August 15, 2013</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet blockquote"><p>Modi's speech revives hope!Provides evidence.Challenges status quo!Exhorts all to think afresh!Ignites patriotism. Recalls national heroes+</p>— Kiran Bedi (@thekiranbedi) <a href="https://twitter.com/thekiranbedi/statuses/367863153436413952">August 15, 2013</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
But Modi made the best use of the vacuum that has been created at the helm by raising some genuine questions on the achievements of the UPA government in particular and the Congress in general. The point that Singh raised the same concerns that Nehru had raised years ago is a potent one and is bound to ignite the commoners' mind. "What were they doing?", one is bound to ask, after hearing Modi.
Just contrast it with Singh's routine speech that he felt pain about the Uttarakhand victims or those in Wednesday's submarine blasts. Modi turned Singh's disadvantage into such a massive advantage for himself that the Congress leadership might be left in a tizzy from hereon. Narendra Modi has made the fullest use of the advantage of an opposition leader. The rulers of the day have missed the point, terribly.
Modi gave a couple of masterstrokes by raising the President's concerns and also pointing that the Congress never bothered to mention the name of its non-Gandhi prime ministers. This shows how much grasp the BJP leader has on common people's thought process and hence, uses the co-feeling to his own advantage. Those in New Delhi lost the plot yet again and that too, at home.
The charge that the Congress-led government never acknowledges the good work of the non-Congress states of the country was also a mega stroke. Modi's appeal that at least on the occasion of the Independence Day, the prime minister could have been generous by acknowledging others and that his computer brigade is busy bashing himself is a move that will earn the leader high scores.
The politics of attack that the rulers of the day have adopted vis-a-vis Modi hasn't helped. It doesn't help that way in a democracy and strangely, the leaders of the party which had made a massive contribution in the nation's independence struggle and led the independent India for most period failed to understand it. Has that party lost its primary character?
Whether Modi will take stance at the Red Fort next year is only for time to tell, but the dash he made at the prestigious platform in Delhi this 15th August will remain memorable in many ways.