Seldom before would a Prime Minister&’s address to the nation have caused so many people to “see red” as Narendra Modi&’s did on Monday: both because of what he said, as well as what he ignored. A third element to the tricky triangle was that his fireworks on Balochistan, Gilgit and PoK appeared a rather desperate ploy to inject some “oomph” into what, till then, had been an insipid, uninspiring offering that was singularly devoid of the magnetic allure normally associated with Mr Modi and a public platform
Until he unleashed his barrage on Pakistan the general feeling was that the Prime Minister was afflicted by those mid-term blues resulting from mediocre performance after high-voltage electoral rhetoric. Was it because he had earlier shot his bolt (to no effect?) on two of the pressing concerns of the day – continuing atrocities and violence against Dalits, and the month-long strife in the Kashmir Valley – that he had no fresh message to deliver on them from the ramparts of Shahjehan&’s sandstone citadel?
It would be silly to assume that the “raising” of Balochistan, PoK and Gilgit was not part of the original game-plan, yet the fervour with which Mr Modi did so suggested he was aware of the lack of impact of the earlier part of his 90-minute venture. And so he fell back on the standard BJP ploy of “bashing” Pakistan to spice up his offering. True that intemperate remarks by the Pak envoy in New Delhi had created an “opening”; statesmanship dictated that the Indian Prime Minister not descend to puerile tit-for-tat play, certainly not in an address to the nation.
The hyphenating of Kashmir and Balochistan does neither much good, as articulated by the Valley suffering its most violent 15 August for over two decades – without a ray of hope emanating from the Red Fort. It might be a trifle early to conclude a further escalation in tension, but a dire sense of recklessness is being perceived in Kashmir.
For now Mr Modi and India have “officially” embroiled themselves in Balochistan. And the Valley will echo the changed equation. That Mehbooba Mufti was quick to try and reach out only confirms the angularities of the political alliance she heads.
For the rest, Mr Modi&’s listing the achievements of the NDA government failed to “click” – true change is felt by the common folk in their daily lives, no speech can reassure them. The coming together of Dalits and Muslims in the rally in Gujarat has its own political implications. Then the Chief Justice of India added administrative ineptitude to the gloomy scenario. The nation, regretfully, had little to be enthused over as it celebrated 70 years of that “tryst with destiny”.