Drawing a parallel between the Congress and “death”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Wednesday mocked the main Opposition party, saying the Congress has the “blessing” of not being ascribed any blame.
“Death has a blessing. It never gets blamed for anything. If somebody dies, the blame goes to reasons like cancer, age… death itself is never blamed or defamed,” Modi told Rajya Sabha in his reply to the motion of thanks on the President’s address.
“Sometimes I feel that Congress has this blessing. If we criticise Congress, the media terms it as ‘attack on Opposition’ but not an attack on Congress. However, if we attack (JD-U leader) Sharadji (Yadav) or Mayawatiji, then it say it is an attack on JD-U or BSP. Congress never gets the blame… It needs to be pondered upon as this in itself is a big science,” he said.’’
While he was scathing in his criticism of the Congress, the Prime Minister struck a conciliatory note when he called the Rajya Sabha a “chamber of ideas” and made a fresh pitch for the passage of key legislation like the goods and services tax (GST) Bill.
Taking a swipe at Ghulam Nabi Azad, Leader of Opposition in the House, for referring to loopholes in the government’s Jan Dhan Yojana, Modi said the Congress leader was trying to find faults with “a microscope”.
“I thank Ghulam Nabi Azadji. This is what the Opposition should do. He got a recording done of what is lacking in Jan Dhan in Bhopal. Whatever the facts be, I appreciate the effort. It shows the Opposition is vigilant. Had you worked so hard while in government, there would have been no need for Modi to do Jan Dhan. You went out with a microscope to see where we were lacking. Had you worked with binoculars earlier, this work would not have been left to me,” he said.
At the receiving end of flak for centralising powers in the Prime Minister’s Office, Modi said his government has decentralised power.
“One big aspect of good governance is decentralisation. It is such a big country that you cannot run through centralisation. The more you decentralise, the better it will work,” Modi said amid shouts from Opposition benches.
In an oblique reference to alleged corruption in environmental clearances during UPA rule, the Prime Minister, without taking names, said, “Government has taken many steps towards decentralisation. Earlier, there was a tendency to concentrate all powers in Delhi with one person. We all know what all was said then. Everyone knows that.”
Criticising the Congress for claiming ownership of his government’s schemes, he said it can also take credit for the Ganga cleaning programme which was initiated during Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure.
“When we talk of Ganga cleaning, it is but natural that you will say you started it. I accept it. Rajiv Gandhi started it. But then I wonder why is it still dirty after 30 years,” he said, adding, “We never claim anything. It is all your contribution. You have ruled the country for 60 years.”
He quoted Indira Gandhi as saying “There are two kinds of people in the world, one who works and another who takes credit for it… You try to belong to the first category because there is little competition in it. This has been said by Indiraji.”
Listing initiatives of his government on allocation of mines, spectrum and FM bandwidth, Modi also referred to an article in the Forbes magazine which praised the manner in which natural resources were being auctioned by his government.
He quoted from the article: “India has just conducted its first auction of a gold mine: this is exactly the right way to allocate the exploration and exploitation rights of such a natural resource. This is another one of those steps along the road to India becoming the much wealthier country it should be… This is the way these matters should be handled.”
He also recalled Jawaharlal Nehru’s words to say that the Rajya Sabha is a chamber of ideas and there was need for coordination with the Lok Sabha because both are part of a structure. “I hope we give importance to Pandit Nehru’s thinking and I hope all pending bills are passed in this session,” he said, while making a fresh pitch for the GST Bill.
Stressing that all governments have made some contribution, he said “if we work with the attitude of ‘hota hai, chalta hai’, it will take a long time for the development of a big country like India. We need to apply full force… we need to move from incremental progress to a quantum jump,” he said.
Reaching out to farmers, Modi mentioned steps taken in the last two years for their welfare. He quoted agriculture scientist M S Swaminathan who had stated that the “dawn of a new era in farming is in sight”.
The Prime Minister wrapped up his reply with Nida Fazli’s poem Safar Mein Dhoop to Hogi: “Safar mein dhoop to hogi jo chal sako to chalo, Sabhi hai bheed mein tum bhi nikal sako to chalo/ Idhar udhar kayi manzil hai chal sako to chalo, Bane banaye hai saanche jo dhal sako to dhalo/ Kisike waaste raahein kahan badalti hai, Tum apne aapko khud hi badal sako to chalo/ Yahan kisiko koi raasta nahi deta, Mujhe gira ke agar tum sambhal sako to chalo.”