It wasn’t specific announcements on policies or the economy – his words about rape in India’s society appear to have had the biggest impact.

In India, every 22 minutes, a woman is raped. Two years ago a 23-year-old was gang-raped and murdered on a local bus in New Delhi. The barbaric details of her sexual assault and killing sent shockwaves around the world.

"Very forceful statement"

Narendra Modi said in his speech that the number of rapes in the country was a source of shame. Aarti Betigeri, a journalist in New Delhi, India, said:

“The thing that everyone’s talking about is his comments on rape. Here we have this this leader whom most Indian men respect, come out and say it’s not women’s fault that women are being raped, instead let’s talk about the boys and how Indians are raising their sons - and that has had a huge impact.

“Women in rural communities in India, especially in the north, are seen as second-class citizens or property, and that’s constantly reinforced by numerous politicians. Now we’ve got this guy who is seen as a real hero, and really strong leader, who has come out and made a very forceful statement.

“He could just be saying it to get onside with India’s female population, but the fact he did it in the same language that India’s feminists use is quite meaningful.”

Speaking about poverty, Mr Modi said India should strive to equip every household with a toilet in the next four years and pledged to ensure all schools had separate facilities for boys and girls.

Managing the behaviour of young men

Dr Ruth Kattumuri is co-director of the Asia Research Centre and India Observatory at London School of Economics. She says India’s economy is intrinsically linked to its social issues.

“He spoke extensively for one hour touching upon various issues, he did talk about poverty and working on eradicating poverty and working together with the South Asian neighbours.

“I thought that was very important in terms of economic progress in India. India’s economy is tied up with the social issues but economic challenges are huge and it’s only two and a half months since he’s been in power and these things need more work.

“Touching upon rape was important because it’s something the international community has been quite interested in and he was directly speaking to the people asking why the families aren’t managing this by managing the behaviour of young men.

“It was a very eloquent and direct and frank speech, and was more about what everyone can do to make India a better place."


Mr Modi also spoke about India becoming a manufacturing hub. In his election campaign he promised to revive economic growth which has fallen below five percent. He appealed to investors: “Come, make in India”.

Ruth Kattumuri says global confidence in India’s economy had flagged recently – but added that the country is an important player in what’s known as the BRICS economy: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

“I think the rest of the world understands the importance of India and its economic potential. I think what has flagged for the rest of the world has been the confidence and sometime the confidence gets affected because of the breaking news, which are just touching on big headlines. More analysis has to be made – if you go into the problem I think, India will come up and in the BRICS I think, India is an important player and BRICS is a strong partnership. It’s a third of the world’s population, it’s a significant group of partners who are actually talking to each other to learn from each other, because most of the countries there are facing similar challenges and in that sense they are sharing experiences and learning from experiences and policies which work for different countries which have similar stages of development.

“I think it’s a good thing, and India is having a clear mandate, having a majority helps the government and the prime minister to get on and focus on issues of growth and development for India.”

Delivering his speech in Hindi, without a script, the content was popular - but India and the rest of the world will have to wait to see whether they think Mr Modi's words have any substance.