The launch of the ‘Saubhagya’ scheme to provide 24×7 electricity to every home in the country, including that last hut in that far corner of India, saw Prime Minister Narendra Modi once again going for the jugular. In the process, he reached out to the country’s poor, women and youth, whom BJP views as a ‘catchment area’ for 2019.
It also showed that the government is worried about the slowing down of the economy and the political toll it can take, with the opposition parties becoming strident in their criticism of the loss of livelihoods after demonetisation and confusion in the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST).
Even as the expected economic stimulus is yet to come, the PM decided to give programmatic shape to a sectoral reform that BJP had anyway promised in its manifesto in 2014. Reconstitution of the PM’s economic advisory council (which was disbanded when Modi came to power) shows Modi’s concern for the economy. He now feels the need for inputs from economists and experts, whom his government has been accused of ignoring, and to move beyond a reliance on the finance ministry.
Interestingly enough, the PM chose not to announce ‘Saubhagya’ as part of his valedictory address to the BJP’s national executive, which would have been the usual way of doing things. He wanted to lay out in detail the vision and blueprint for the creation of an India with clean energy, cheaper energy, the moves towards alternative sources of energy and about India’s seriousness about its global commitments, while providing its poor families with the basic need of ‘bijlee’. In the process, he reseized the initiative on the development-governance front.
At the same time, the PM made a political, pro-poor pitch, which was evident as he repeatedly referred to the 4-crore households (out of a total of 25 crore) which were even today, in 2017, without electricity, and the toll this took on children’s education as they had to study by the lanterns and candles. Or of women’s health in the kitchen (‘choolha mukti’, or coal oven). Or of their safety as they had to think many times before going out into the dark.
He also reached out to the youth. Remember, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) has recently lost elections on many a campus across the country. This, too, would be a cause of worry to the BJP brass. Thus, he urged them to ‘innovate’, so that cheaper and userfriendly equipment could become a reality for a large number of women and reduce their drudgery.
Though earlier in the day, the PM talked about the need for BJP to go beyond elections, BJP president Amit Shah and he laid out the roadmap for winning the forthcoming elections. While Modi gave a new push to the larger theme of development, Shah ripped into the Congress — and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi — for its defence of dynasty. Read more
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