A day after he came under attack from Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for “not listening to anyone’s opinion other than his own”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hit back Thursday, accusing the Congress of disrupting Parliament and stalling Bills because its leadership suffered from “jealousy” and “inferiority complex”.
He repeatedly read out statements by Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi against stalling of legislative business. He suggested that the main Opposition party was not letting its “young” and “bright” leaders grow because it feared they would overshadow Rahul.
“In the Opposition, there are bright and talented young people who don’t get a chance to speak. They do a lot of homework. The concern is that if they speak, they will be praised and what will happen to us,” he said.
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During the course of his 75-minute speech in Lok Sabha, Modi also sought Opposition support for “improving” governance. “We need to make an atmosphere of improving trust. If you have suggestions, please do so. I would like the government to adopt these habits. The government also needs to improve and this will not happen without your support. I need your support. I need you people, your experience.”
“I am new. You are experienced. Let us walk shoulder to shoulder and do some good work for the nation. Governments may come and go. People may come and go. Things may fail or succeed but the country will remain,” he said.
Without naming Rahul, Modi, while responding to his remarks that the Prime Minister should “listen” to others, recalled how Rahul had shown “respect” to the Manmohan Singh cabinet by tearing in public an ordinance it had cleared.
“It is easy to preach others…There are some people who are asked all kinds of questions. But there are some others who are not answerable, nobody dares to ask them questions. I have seen what happens to those who try to ask them questions.”
In this context, he narrated an anecdote: “After Stalin died, Khrushchev would criticise him wherever he went. At one meeting, Khrushchev was criticising Stalin and one youth said, ‘you have worked with Stalin, then why are you criticising him now?… Khrushchev replied, ‘I wished to do the same in the Stalin era but could not. You can do it. Got the answer?”
He again targeted Rahul for mocking the Make in India programme. He said it was for the betterment of the country. “If it does not succeed, we can discuss how to do it well. But I don’t know why we create such an image of our nation that we are out on the streets with a begging bowl. When we say this, others say it louder,” Modi said, again adding, “This was a speech delivered by Indira Gandhi at Indraprastha College in 1974.”
The Opposition interrupted, but Modi continued, “You won’t get it… No matter what scheme we bring, in what way, some people will not understand. (Mallikarjun) Khargeji, you will understand, I am not sure about others. Some people have grown up, but their intelligence has not caught up. That is why they keep opposing everything.”
To make his point, he again quoted Indira Gandhi as saying “even the intellectual class does this vociferously… whenever something is attempted, 100 reasons are cited why it should not be done.”
Referring to the attacks on him in the wake of the Gujarat riots of 2002, he said, “I have been questioned, I have faced criticism and accusations over the last 14 years. I have learnt to live with it.”
When Congress member Kantilal Bhuria said there was a “gap between what you say and what you do”, Modi said, “I have got several certificates in the last 14 years, let there be one more. I accept it.”
He said it is his government’s privilege to do the work that should have been done years ago, but did not happen. He deplored the “tu tu, mai mai” (blame game) attitude of political parties for “scoring points”, saying the bureaucracy rejoices over this and the nation suffers.
He said a democratic country like India cannot be left to the bureaucracy as he sought to underline the importance of the legislature, saying even a single MP of any party should be treated like “Prime Minister”.
He did not, however, respond to the specific issues raised by Rahul Gandhi and other opposition leaders, like his visit to Pakistan, black money, JNU and Dalit student Rohith Vemula’s suicide.
(with PTI inputs)