M K Razdan
Hitting back at Sonia Gandhi for her sharp attacks on him, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday suggested that she had been an “unconstitutional” authority exercising “real” power over the PMO during the UPA rule, whereas power was now wielded only by constitutional means.
Dismissing the Congress president’s accusation that the NDA government was showing “obstinate arrogance” in Parliament and that it was a government by “one person”, Modi said, “Perhaps, she is referring to the fact that earlier extra-constitutional authorities were the ones really wielding power.”
He went on to say that power was now “wielded only by constitutional means”. If the charge is that “we are working through constitutional channels and not listening to any extra constitutional authorities, then I plead guilty to that charge”, he said.
Asked about the criticism that all powers were concentrated in the PMO, Modi responded, “Your question is loaded.
It would have been better if this question had been asked when an unconstitutional authority was sitting above the constitutional authority and exercising power over the PMO.”
He emphasised that “the Prime Minister and the PMO are very much part of the constitutional scheme, not outside it”.
Countering Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s “suit-boot ki sarkar” jibe, Modi said that the Congress had not been able to “digest” its crushing defeat in Lok Sabha polls even after one year.
“The people have punished them for their sins of omission and commission. We thought they would learn from this, but it looks as though they are proving right the earlier saying that if con is the opposite of pro, then Congress is the opposite of progress,” he said.
On the land acquisition Bill, Modi said that while he did not want to get into political mudslinging, the subject of land was not with the central government, which did not require lands.
All rights relating to lands are with the states, he said.
“The 120-year-old land acquisition Act was amended by the previous government without even 120 minutes of discussion in Parliament. Thinking the bill was good for farmers, we also supported it at that time,” he said. “Later, many complaints came from the states. One should not be so arrogant as to avoid correcting mistakes. So we brought the bill to rectify the errors, that too in response to the demands of the states. Anyone who looks at our proposed amendments without politically-tinted glasses will give us full marks.”
Asked if the government was open to suggestions on the bill, he said, “Gaon (village), garib (poor), kisan (farmer) — if the suggestions are favourable to these downtrodden groups and are in the interest of the nation, we will accept those suggestions.”
Answering a question on attacks on minority communities and their institutions, Modi said any criminal act against any individual or institution in the country is to be condemned.
“The attackers must be strongly punished as per law. I have said this before and I say it again (that) any discrimination or violence against any community will not be tolerated,” he said.
Defending the Centre’s action against NGOs, he said, “There has been no action taken contrary to law. No patriotic citizen can object to this.”
— With PTI inputs