President Pranab Mukherjee reiterated the poll agenda of the BJP-led NDA government as articulated by prime minister Narendra Modi in a hard-fought election battle this summer in his first address to the joint session of parliament here on Monday.
The president's speech, which is a statement of objectives of the new government, contained almost all the points mentioned in the BJP poll manifesto including the setting up of a national mission on Himalayas and to ensure the return of Kahsmir Pandits to the land of their ancestors along with a promise to deal with illegal immigration in the northeast of the country.
In the first few paragraphs of the speech, the president squeezed all the BJP/Modi catch-lines such as "Development through good governance", "Ek Bharat – Shreshta Bharat", "Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas", "Minimum Government, Maximum Governance", "Three Ds — Democracy, Demography and Demand" and the five Ts of "Tradition, Talent, Tourism, Trade and Technology" to build "Brand India", and to turn India into a competitive manufacturing hub through "Skill, Scale and Speed".
There is also the politically correct nod o the welfare of the Scheduled Tribes through "Van Bandhu Kalyan Yojana" and to the Muslims through "a National Madrasa Modernisation Programme". The other Modi favourite that was mentioned in the president's speech was e-governance and digital India. "E-governance brings empowerment, equity and efficiency. It has the power to transform peoples' lives. The backbone of the government's new ways of working will be a Digital India," said the president. There was also the inevitable reference to Modi's preference for the social media. "Social media will be used as a tool for participative governance, directly engaging the people in policy making and administration."
The president's speech also affirmed the BJP belief in the spirit of federalism with the promise, "The States and Centre should function as an organic Team India". The speech also promised to "reinvigorate the National Development Council and the Inter-State Council", and said that, "The Centre will be an enabler in the rapid progress of States through Cooperative Federalism".
There was an acknowledgment that there are problems on the economic front. The only part in the speech which sounded rhetorical, Mukherjee said, "My government is dedicated to the poor. Poverty has no religion, hunger has no creed, and despair has no geography. The greatest challenge before us is to end the curse of poverty in India."
It has also been stated that containing "food inflation" will be the government's top priority, and that contingent plans are afoot to face the possibility of a "subnormal monsoon". Noting the fact that the country is passing through "an extremely difficult phase" on the economic front, and that "inflation continues to be at an unacceptable level", he said "putting the Indian economy back on track is paramount for my government." One of the means to reinvigorate the economy is to galvanise the infrastructure sector, and as part of this mission, the government "will launch a Diamond Quadrilateral project of high-speed trains."