Addressing the nation
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Modi has outlined his national vision and ambition. He must learn to also take questions
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi spoke over the shoulders of the students gathered in the basketball stadium of Delhi's Shri Ram College of Commerce on Wednesday, to address the nation. Knowing that wall-to-wall media coverage was expected, Modi seized the occasion to make a stump speech for 2014. In the run-up to last year's assembly election in Gujarat, it had been obvious that Modi was impatiently brushing aside the local bout to position himself in the national arena. Now, fresh from his third victory in the state, Modi has travelled to Delhi to begin the wider campaign. The challenges he identified were all national, while Gujarat was invoked as the site of solutions.
As he staked out his arena and audience, the constituency that Modi targeted was clearly the young. The under-35 demographic is now the majority in India, and Modi attempted to speak to their perceived grievances with the System. He employed catchphrases to decorate his message — skill-scale-speed, "minimum government, maximum governance", "mouse-charmers, not snake-charmers". He praised the confidence and energy of what he had called the "neo-middle class" during the Gujarat campaign, decrying old-style politics that dismissed them as "new age voters", calling them "new age power" instead. Modi was not trying to persuade young and pessimistic voters to give politics a chance as much as he was conveying to them, unsubtly, that they had an alternative. "India needs this vision", he said, while speaking of Gujarat's schemes. He described his own efficiency — how, 10 days after he was sworn in, he organised the Vibrant Gujarat conclave, with 121 nations, gathering "50 per cent of India's GDP" under one roof. Not surprisingly, for a politician whose image is both his weapon and his biggest liability, Modi seemed obsessively concerned with branding and image-polishing. The speech was remarkable for its statement of focus and ambition.