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Boring! What I thought about Modi's US Congress speech

By Syed Firdaus Ashraf
June 09, 2016 18:17 IST

While some praised Narendra Modi's US Congress address, Syed Firdaus Ashraf had only two words to say: SO WHAT?

In his opinion, the 48-minute oration was boring, with no real substance, and nothing new to offer.

IMAGE: United State Vice-President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan look on as Prime Minister Narendra Modi does a Namaste after addressing a joint meeting of the US Congress, June 8, 2016. Photograph: Carlos Barria/Reuters

On Wednesday I decided I would not watch the 9 pm news. My favourite television anchor known for his 'The nation wants to know' line has of late changed his political stance and keeps informing viewers like me 'what the BJP wants the nation to know.'

These days, he seems to be reading government handouts and I feel there is no point watching him anymore.

On Wednesday, around 9 pm, I was reading Frantz Fanon: A Biography when my phone started buzzing. I began to receive a stream of messages. The messages would just not stop.

A quick glance at the messages showed that my Modi bhakts friends were wondering why I was mum when Prime Minister Modi was giving an excellent speech in the US Congress.

One Modi bhakt wrote: 'Firdaus, are you seeing the respect and response Modi is receiving?'

I switched on the television to find out what Modi was saying.

To me, the only difference in his Congressional speech from all his other speeches was that this one was delivered in English. I thought it was boring!

As the speech ended, the messages started pouring in. 'Forty ovations, including eight standing ones for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the US Congress.'

Everyone on my Whatsapp group expected my comments.

I had only two words to say: SO WHAT?

Does Modi being applauded in the US Congress change my life or the life of any other Indian?

Has inflation in India truly reduced?

Do we have better roads?

Are Mumbai's local trains more comfortable?

Are women any safer in India?

Has the price of petrol dropped in spite of oil prices falling to below $50 for more than a year?

Has Rs 15 lakh been deposited in my account as promised by Amit Shah?

Why am I paying 15 per cent service tax vis-a-vis 12.5 per cent during UPA rule?

Our prime minister demands accountability from the Congress party all the time. However, there is very little accountability on his part when it comes, for instance, to the question of his foreign travels.

The PM's website does not provide any details about his foreign travel expenses since March 2015. (http://www.pmindia.gov.in/en/details-of-foreigndomestic-visits/)

Do the people of India not have the right to ask how much Modi spends on his foreign travels?

The accounts for each of the PM's visits from March 2015 till date is still under process. Who are the accountants working on the billing? Why haven't they been sacked for incompetence?

The Prime Minister's Office website says Modi spent Rs 77,91,58,465 (Rs 77.91 crore/Rs 779.1 million) on bhis foreign travels till March 2015. No information is available after that date. Where is the accountability?

More important, does Modi really practice what he said in his speech to the US Congress?

Modi spoke of freedom of speech. It is a little rich that he spoke of that, in fact it sounded more like a joke, considering that the film Udta Punjab has come under the Censor Board's scanner.

Anurag Kashyap, the co-producer of the movie that speaks of the drug problem in Punjab, compared India to North Korea and the Censor Board chief's high handedness is clearly visible in attempting to suppress the freedom of art in our country.

I wonder what 'freedom of speech' Modi was alluding to on Wednesday.

'Our founders created a modern nation with freedom, democracy, and equality as the essence of its soul,' Modi declared. 'And in doing so, they ensured that we continued to celebrate our age-old diversity.'

Isn't it a joke that Modi talks about diversity when some of his party MPs talk of 'love jihad', when the Vishwa Hindu Parishad's Sadhvi Prachi talks of an India that is Muslim-free, when his party was responsible for banning the consumption of beef in several states.

Modi, by the way, does not follow the long tradition of hosting an iftaar party during Ramzan -- his reasoning being that he doesn't believe in appeasement politics like the Congress party does. This man, who speaks of diversity, dines with rich oligarchs and Arab rulers, but won't do so with common Indian Muslims.

The trouble with Modi bhakts and indeed Modi himself is that they are now in Vajpayee mode.

They are confident that Modi will secure a second term in the 2019 elections just the way Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the BJP thought they would win the 2004 election.

Just like Vajpayee's followers did, the Modi bhakts live in a world of 'Shining India.' They fail to realise that things aren't so shiny in Modi's India. They are busy thumping chests over Modi's US Congress speech, but fail to grasp the harsh reality of the suffering that millions of Indians in the drought affected states endure every day.

By the way, Modi, the globe-trotter, shockingly has not visited the drought-affected parts of India so far.

For me, Modi's speech was boring, with no real substance, and nothing new to offer.

What about the fact that American Congressmen gave Modi a standing ovation, one friend asked.

Taking a line from Frantz Fanon' biography, 'My final prayer: Make me always a man who asks questions', I think it is time to ask Modi: 'When will the achche din arrive?'

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Syed Firdaus Ashraf / Rediff.com
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