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October 16, 1999


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'The mandate of '99 is a bond of trust between people and government'

Following is the text of the prime minister's address to the nation today:

My dear countrymen,

I address you today to perform a very pleasant duty: to thank all of you for your positive and clear mandate to the National Democratic Alliance and its friendly parties in this election.

The NDA represents the aspirations of every region of our great nation and every section of our vibrant society. The NDA, in fact, reflects the spirit of India in all its diversity. It also mirrors the fundamental unity in this diversity.

We may have been sent to Parliament under the banners of different parties. But we all have a common commitment: to give India a stable and good government.

We are all guided by the lofty principles of secularism, social justice, social harmony and women's empowerment. Ours is a government wedded to a common ideal: to create a kinder, gentler and more tolerant society, free from all discrimination, fear and insecurity.

Free and fair elections are the lifeblood of a democracy. It is a matter of great pride for all of us that our nation has once again demonstrated its unshakeable commitment to democracy.

Our nation continues to march on the path she adopted when she became a Republic in 1950. With the successful completion of the last election of this century, India stands taller in the eyes of all democracy-loving people of the world.

It has been a long campaign. A lot of heat and dust were generated during this general election.

But now that the election is over, we should put the acrimony and bitterness of the last couple of months behind us. And get down to the task of nation-building. There is not a moment to lose.

The opposition's role in a democracy is no less important than that of the government. It is a role mandated by the people and comes with a lot of responsibility.

Constructive criticism is an essential input for good policies and programmes. Consensus on national issues is necessary for effective action.

I look forward to both constructive criticism and consensus on national issues.

My countrymen, the world rushes ahead -- whether or not we look up from our narrow concerns. Neither do the tasks that confront us abate. The number of young women and men whom jobs must be provided continues to increase. Children still go to bed hungry. A sense of insecurity prevails.

The soul of India rebels against this reality.

Starting today, our government has set itself the task of implementing our agenda for a proud, prosperous India. It is my solemn pledge to all of you that nothing shall prevent us from the task of good governance.

We talk of the 21st century. In just ten weeks from today, India, along with the rest of the world, will enter a new era of challenges and opportunities.

We are pledged to the emergence of a 'new' India in the new century.

We can redeem this pledge through collective effort, by resolutely meeting the challenges and seizing the opportunities of the 21st century. We may have been sent to Parliament under the banners of different parties. But we have all been sent for a common task: to make India a strong, vigorous, prosperous and caring country.

To meet the challenges, we have to act now. In the coming days, our government proposes to:

Speed up economic reforms and focus attention on infrastructure development. The new century demands a new mindset.

Introduce new laws for financial sector reforms so that India can keep pace with the rest of the world.

Evolve a programme for achieving fiscal rectitude by improved expenditure management, deep tax reforms and a new mechanism for speedier restructuring and disinvestment of public sector units.

Promote investment, including foreign direct investment, by adoption of suitable measures and removing bottlenecks that lead to costly delays.

Re-arrange priorities of development by re-deploying resources and strengthening institutions for providing to all:

Safe drinking water.

Primary health services.

Primary education.

Rural roads.

Housing to rural homeless.

In this task, we seek the participation of the private sector.

My countrymen, all these tasks can be completed if we work together. Let us proceed, as the Gita counsels us: Bodhyanta parasparam --- imparting wisdom to each other.

The opportunities are unlimited. We can use them to our national advantage if we stand united -- both in prosperity and in the face of adversity. India's greatest asset is her unity, and my government is determined to maintain this unity at all cost.

One of our immediate tasks will be to firmly put down terrorism, which has come to cast its cruel shadow on innocent people. Our message is loud and clear: the life of every Indian citizen under our dispensation is precious. In our fight against terrorism, we will be guided by the principle of 'zero tolerance.'

The same principle of 'zero tolerance' will apply while dealing with corruption that has bred contempt for the law. One of the first legislation we will take up is the Lok Pal Bill so that the rot can be checked from the top.

A broad consensus already exists on electoral reforms to weed out muscle and money power. We propose to soon introduce in Parliament a comprehensive electoral reform bill.

We often talk of the future belonging to our youth. But, for decades their problems, especially that of unemployment, have remained unattended. We believe that our young women and men will be the architects of the 'new' India of the 21st century.

I am confident that a buoyant national economy will create tremendous employment opportunities. I am equally confident that our focus on education and health will prepare today's youth for tomorrow's challenges.

The government of free India had set itself the noble task of wiping every tear from every eye, of ending centuries-old discriminations and social inequities. Somewhere along the journey from freedom to the eve of this century, government lost track of that task.

Illiteracy is a curse and a denial of human dignity. As is gender discrimination or, for that matter, lack of something as basic and essential as drinking water and primary health care.

My dear countrymen, India today needs a government that cares; India needs a government that will reach out to the last person in the last row.

Our government pledges itself to narrowing the gap between our performance and your expectation. The mandate of '99 is a bond of trust between people and government. We shall not betray this trust. With the help of a billion people proud of being Indian, there is nothing that we cannot achieve, no problem we cannot tackle, no challenge we cannot face and no opportunity we cannot seize.


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