I-Day speech: Sartorially subdued Modi softens fiery rhetoric


New Delhi, There was no eye-catching bright colorful flowing turban this year, that had made as much an impact as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day speech last year.


Modi, whose sartorial preferences have been much written about, chose a subdued creamish-yellow turban this year, matching with his simple cream coloured churidaar-kurta and jacket.
Matching his dress sense, the fiery rhetoric which had galvanised his supporters through elections and governance in the first year has undergone a change.
The intense delivery was replaced with a ‘team India’ approach which credited the nation with achievements and the greatness to come, rather than the “me, mine, myself” eloquence so typical of the man who brought his party to power through a high octane campaign, and which carried on in his speeches for a year.

People did notice and comment on his earlier approach. It was former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah who had hit the nail on its head by once saying that for Modi the “whole thing was about being me, myself and I alone”.
On Independence Day last year, Modi’s fervent speech had made as much impact as his bright red and green headgear. His appeal of Make in India, of abolishing the Planning Commission, setting up toilets for all among other pronouncements had caught on – and there was much applause, including from among the over 150 foreign diplomats who had crowded around to hear the then new leader of India.

His visit to the US last September was talked about not only for his meeting with President Barack Obama and his speech at the UN General Assembly, but also his frequent change of attire. Those following the prime minister would notice him in a changed suit or churidar-kurta and bright jacket for every occasion – and the Prime Minister’s Office tweeted pictures of all his meetings with dignitaries.

Modi’s sartorial choice became one of the most talked about event during Obama’s India visit in January, when he wore a pin-striped suit with his name on it – that fetched the prime minister enormous amount of flak, not the least from opposition parties which tried to paint him as a man of form, rather than substance.

The “Rs.10 lakh suit”, was gifted by a businessman and was later auctioned off, but the attacks did not end. ‘Suit-Boot ki sarkar’ became a war-cry of Congress trying desperately to find a chink in the armour of a man who had reduced the party to its lowest-ever tally in the Lok Sabha
Sitting along side Barack Obama watching Republic Day parade this year, Modi made an eye-catching picture, attired in a black bandh-gala suit, and topped with a green and red bandhani turban with a red frill at the top. He also wore a pair of stylish shades in contrast to the US President who was attired in a simple dark blue suit.

Perhaps in the aftermath of the disapproval he received for the pin-striped suit, Modi has, over the months, become markedly spartan in his attire, even on foreign jaunts. So has his grandiloquence. The few schemes he announced this year appeared to be a case of reality catching up with hyperbole.

Modi had confessed in interviews earlier that he likes to mix and match his wardrobe and experiments with colour. The experiments seems to have been given up. He now largely wears dark coloured bandh-gala suits or simple churidar-kurtas for his meetings.
In another marked change this year – there was no jostling, eager crowd to hear Modi’s Independence Day speech. Is this the beginning of ennui among the people?