Seldom before has the difference between a Head of State and a Head of Government been more pronounced than in the Independence Day messages from Mr Ram Nath Kovind and the Red Fort address by Mr Narendra Modi.
Together they presented a balanced picture of prevailing national realities, yet there was scope to wonder if the President was more than a trifle concerned over what he euphemistically called “contentious issues” that must be avoided, and on the Prime Minister’s assertion that while the Tricolour may have been raised on Shahjehan’s citadel in 1947, it was only since 2014 that the nation began to touch genuine heights.
If Mr Modi had triggered a degree of euphoria it dissipated later in the day as news spread of the deteriorating health of the BJP’s much-loved stalwart, Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
For it became difficult not to contrast the cultured, persuasive, all-encompassing approach of the NDA’s first Prime Minister with the assertive impatience of its second man in the PMO ~ and that put the President’s message in thought-inspiring perspective.
Since this was Mr Modi’s final August 15 address of his present term ~ although his repeated references to 2022 targets would suggest confidence in returning to office – he is not to be faulted for making an election speech.
However rather than go down on the promise-strewn path of the last few years he opted to reflect and highlight the many accomplishments of his government.
Fair enough, he was fully entitled to do that: yet he might have avoided contrasting them with what the previous government had attained ~ success is not measured against somebody else’s failure. Not surprisingly came the Congress’ reaction that there was now need for sachche din, since achche din were yet to dawn.
The Prime Minister’s announcement of a major health-insurance initiative was tempered by the fact that its launch has actually been deferred. And his promise of a 100 per cent all-Indian manned space mission left ISRO scientists somewhat confused ~ a confusion more manifest in the common folk who wondered how it fit in when plans were still underway to build a toilet in every home…
The many strides that India has taken were also the raw material of the President’s address, but Mr Kovind did not put a starting-time on that trip to progress.
And he did not back-off from asserting that all physical accomplishments could be negated if India allowed itself to be distracted by contentious issues.
There was no need for them to be listed, for they would soon be propelled to centrestage as 2019 neared because they also happen to be vote attracting.
These were speeches, as we said at the outset, made from different perspectives but bound by a common thread.
There was much to applaud in what the Prime Minister had to say, but also cause for sorrow that some things remained unsaid. Seventy-one years on, even the idea of India is a work in progress.