Sleeping Elephant has woken up

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his last speech from the ramparts of Red Fort ahead of the 2019 elections, made a strong political pitch for a second term by projecting himself as a leader who delivered a bold, decisive and efficient government.

In doing so, he contrasted the Indian economy before his term as a “sleeping elephant” which, he said as per experts, had now woken up and is running. He claimed that India’s infamous red tape image has now transformed into a “red carpet for investment”.

He also announced the launch of his signature medical insurance scheme, named Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Abhiyan or Ayushman Bharat, from September 25, which aims to offer ₹5 lakh cover to nearly 10 crore poor families in the country ahead of the 2019 elections.

“There was a time when the world used to call India’s economy risky. However, today, the same people and institutions are saying with confidence that our reform momentum has strengthened our economic fundamentals,” Modi said.

“From being counted among the Fragile Five and concern that India was pulling down the world economy, today the world is saying India has become the destination for multi-trillion dollar investments. There was a time when India meant ‘policy paralysis’ and ‘delayed reforms’. However, today India is discussed for ‘reform, perform and transform’,” Modi said, to stress on the difference he had brought to India as PM in the last four years.

Going by the “2013 speed” under the UPA, he said, it would have taken decades to achieve what his government has done in the past four years. He said the country was constructing twice the highways and four times more houses in the villages under him.

At a time when he’s under criticism from Opposition for letting rupee breach Rs.70 mark against the dollar, the prime minister highlighted that India was now the sixth-largest economy on which the world places considerable hope.

Here, he underlined the bold decision to implement the GST, calling it a “festival of honesty” that’s ensuring efficient tax compliance. “In the past 70 years, 70 lakh enterprises were included in the indirect tax net. However, in the last one year alone after GST, the figure has catapulted to 1.16 crore. The number of direct taxpayers has increased from 4 crore in 2014 to 6.75 crore.”

Modi laid particular emphasis on his ability to “clean up” the corrupt system of power brokers and introduce efficiency, saying he had rooted out nepotism and affiliations. “Such shops are closed. We will never forgive corruption or black money. Whatever the obstacles, I will not leave this path. Corruption did harm India.”

The PM said he was “restless, worked up, agitated and impatient” and that showed in his personal commitment to further re-energise the government machinery. “I am impatient as several countries have gone ahead of us and I am restless and impatient to take my country ahead of these countries. Malnutrition is a big bottleneck in the development of our children and I want to rid the country of the same. I am agitated so that a poor person can get an appropriate health cover to fight diseases. I am restless to ensure that our citizens can have a quality life and an opportunity to love with ease,” he said, while reaffirming the targets fixed by him for India’s 75th anniversary of Independence in 2022.

The PM also cited international reports to claim that 5 crore people had been pulled out of poverty in the last two years.

“We want to move ahead. We cannot accept stagnation, we cannot be standstill and it is not in our nature to bend before anybody. This country will neither come to a standstill, neither will it bend and nor will it get tired. We have to achieve greater heights, we have to keep moving ahead,” Modi said.

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