Signalling that the rancour of his high-voltage election campaign was in the past, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday, in his first speech in the newly constituted Lok Sabha underlined the need to reach out to all groups in and outside the House to move forward.
In one illustration of this, he said that he did not consider “focused activity” for the welfare of Muslims as “appeasement” and advocated the need for the welfare of “all sections.” Today, he identified Muslim backwardness. “Even the third generation of Muslim brothers, whom I have seen since my young days, are continuing with their cycle repairing job. Why does such misfortune continue? We will have to undertake focus activity to bring about change in their lives. We will have to bring such programmes. I do not view such programmes within the prism of appeasement. I see them to bring about a change in their lives. No body can be called healthy if one of its organs is disabled. All organs of the human body needed to be fit in order for a person to be healthy. Similarly, all sections (organs) of the society need to empowered,” Modi said.
This is a significant change in his earlier remarks on the subject where he has said that poverty was the common enemy of both Hindu and Muslim and that he never saw religion in his “India First” view of secularism. Replying to the motion of thanks on President’s speech, Modi assured the country that he would govern with a spirit of collectivity with political rivals and state governments and said that aspiration for development should be tapped into a “mass movement.”
To critics of his “Gujarat model,” he said that this was, effectively, a model that provides for regional variations and “cooperative federalism” rather than a top-down imposition.
“We are not going to adopt a ‘big brother’ attitude that looks down upon you (states) and behaves as if we (Centre) are offering crumbs…We collectively want to take the country forward. That is why we talk about cooperative federalism,” Modi said assuring the regional parties ruling different states across the country to allay their apprehensions. He, however, said that he welcomed competition for development among states.
The Prime Minister sought to set the record straight over the impression that he brooks no dissent saying that he would welcome criticism, if not allegations, as it was the essence of democracy. In fact, he started his speech acknowledging the criticism made by opposition members during the course of discussion on the motion of thanks on the President’s speech.
“I heard (Congress leader) Mallikarjun Kharge, (SP leader) Mulayam Singh Yadav, (AIADMK leader) Thambidurai, (BJD leader) Bhartruhari. Their was one common theme that several promises have been made and they wanted to know how and by what time will they be done. It was natural for them and other MPs to ask how and when we will be able to fulfil it. There was a tinge of expectation in them. This is a good sign for the future of the country,” Modi said.
“In a democracy, criticisms are for betterment, and they should happen. Allegations are bad but criticism is never bad. We are ready for all criticism as criticism is the essence of democracy,” Modi said. “Matdan se pehle hum ummeedwar the, matdan ke baad hum ummeedon ke rakhwale hain. Hum ummeedon ke doot hain. Sawa sau crore deshwasiyon ke ummeedon ko pura karne ka hum prayas karein ,” Modi said. (During the campaign, we were candidates, now we are the protectors of aspirations).
He praised the development claims made by AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa ruled Tamil Nadu, TMC chief Mamata Banerjee’s efforts in West Bengal and government experience of SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, whose party rules UP.
Calling for skill upgradation in the country to reap the demographic dividend, he resolved to provide universal sanitation coverage by 2019 while asking political leaders and state governments to chip in with their effort to provide pucca houses for all Indians by 2022. Referring to the “rurban” idea mentioned in President’s speech, Prime Minister expressed the commitment to provide “urban amenities in rural areas to ensure a situation where ‘suvidhaa shahar ki, aatma gaon ki’” can be achieved.
Referring to the elections as a reflection of the country’s awesome democratic strength — given the numbers involved — Modi said that there was a need to project this “democratic power on the world stage”.