The Prime Minister’s Independence Day speech from the Red Fort this year was unique. It was extempore and had the ring of spontaneity and was very different from dull written speeches which are monotonously read. The speech, though pretty long, was not boring. Narendra Modi’s initial remark that he was addressing the people not as Prime Minister but as Prime Sevak, struck the right chord. His manner of speaking was more like a family elder speaking home truths, scolding at times and also providing solutions. Besides in a departure from standard practice, there was no bullet-proof enclosure around the Prime Minister. This endeared him to the numerous people who had travelled far and wide to hear him. His attire, especially his red turban, was an added attraction, especially to the women folk. It was gracious of the PM to give credit to his predecessors and express gratitude to all former PMs, past governments for helping India reach great lengths. His speech highlighted the need to provide toilets in all schools with emphasis on cleanliness and requiring use of MPLAD funds for building toilets. There were moving references to empowerment of women and the status of the girl child “who is not a financial liability”. He urged each MP to create a model village. The speech spoke of the necessity to manufacture goods in India—Make in India and march forward to Digital India.
A significant aspect of the speech was the non-mention of certain matters. For example, our relations with Pakistan, whom he had slammed a couple of days before the Independence Day speech for waging a proxy war against India. There was also no whisper of the so-called tussle between the judiciary and executive on account of the legislation relating to creation of a Judicial Appointments Commission. This displayed maturity and statesmanship on the part of the PM. Independence Day speech is sui generis and not an occasion for raising contentious domestic or political issues. At the end of the day, PM’s speech confirmed his skills as an orator. Incidentally, it also revealed his thespian talent, a good actor, who knows what to say and what not to say and how to say in order to produce the maximum effect. Our PM truly deserves an Academy Award.
Aam Aadmi’s Woes: Aam Aadmi Party’s woes seem to be unending. It commenced with Shazia Ilmi’s resignation because of alleged lack of inner party democracy. Despite attempts at reconciliation, Shazia has not rejoined the party. It is believed there is simmering dissatisfaction among other party functionaries. Yogendra Yadav is also unhappy. The crisis culminated with Shanti Bhushan, one of its founders, leaving the party for lack of inner party democracy and also for alleged lack of maturity in Arvind Kejriwal. The situation is truly piquant because Prashant Bhushan, Shanti Bhushan’s son, is still with the party. One does not know whether filial piety will prevail over political dissension. Father and son, however, should sort it out early. It is a pity that AAP, which began with a bang and struck resonance among various sections of society, appears to be ending with a whimper.
Tantric Massages: Judicial verdicts all over the world do appear strange at times. The latest is a decision of a State Court in Germany which upheld the levy of ‘amusement tax’ on the owner of a massage parlour which provided tantric massages. The reasoning of the court is that the same tax is levied on brothels and swinger clubs and as tantric massages provide sexual pleasure, a different rule cannot be applied. The decision raises significant question of religious freedom which, however, does not seem to have been argued. Tantrics should challenge the decision in appropriate fora, especially on the ground that it is sacrilegious to equate sexual pleasures in a brothel with the pleasure emanating from tantric massages. Surely, the two are qualitatively different.
Sorabjee is a former Attorney General of India