Under fire from the Opposition over changes in the land acquisition Act, which the NDA is keen to pass in the Parliament session beginning Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that all the decisions of his government so far were “for the welfare of the poor”.
Addressing a gathering of BJP MPs at a day-long party workshop on promoting and helping implement centrally-sponsored schemes for the poor, Modi urged the parliamentarians to work for “rural India”, especially in the health and education sectors.
“You lead a movement to build toilets.Those mothers and sisters in the villages will bless you. I am here because of their blessings during my 14-year tenure as Gujarat Chief Minister,” he said.
“Hold your head high, be confident and tell the people what we are doing for them and they will laud you… All decisions I am taking are for the welfare of the poor,” Modi added.
Admitting that his party was not yet “in the mindset, culture, nature of someone in power”, he said that it meant they are not able to create an “echo effect” for the measures taken by the government.
At the same time, he described those political opponents and the media — who linked his speech in support of farmers during the party’s national executive meet in Bangalore early this month to the Land Acquisition Bill as “perverted minds”.
He went on to list a series of measures taken by his government since it came to power 10 months ago in various sectors to help the poor: improving the railways for the common man; evacuating of Indians from Yemen, mostly workers and nurses; housing for poor; insurance for poor; call for rich to give up LPG subsidies; fall in cement prices; and measures for farmers who lost their crops.
Reminding the MPs that he had declared his commitment to the poor in his first speech in Parliament after he became Prime Minister, Modi attacked those who accuse him of taking “pro-rich” decisions.
“We are working to provide houses to everybody. Who are the people who do not have a house? Who will benefit from it, the rich? Are we doing it for the owner of some TV channel or newspaper? Are we going to build a house for Mukesh Ambani? Who are those people who don’t have houses?” he asked.
Referring to the ‘beti bachao, beti padhao’ (save daughters, educate daughters) scheme, he asked, “Can this be for the daughters of IAS officers or MPs? Who is uneducated? In this country, the daughters of minorities are the most uneducated.”
Pointing out that the neo-middle class did not want to live in “jhopdis” but with dignity, the PM said, “We want the purchasing power of villages to increase but they should not be unproductive. If the purchasing power of poor villages increase then it will benefit the cities also.”
Modi also asked his party MPs to compare the work done by the previous UPA government and the current BJP-led NDA by pointing to how “television channels show black and white images along with the coloured ones to show the difference.”
Punctuating the almost hour-long address with sharp attacks on his critics, including the media, Modi said, “Some people have this ‘janmjaat (congenital)’ habit of running down BJP. They have a right to criticise us but then they have no right to call themselves neutral… I have always been speaking about the poor, working for them.”
Taking exception to those who criticise his speeches, Modi asked whether “it was a crime” or if it was “wrong” if he claimed that his government had stopped corruption or said that the number of homeless people had increased since Independence.
“Is it bad to see a dream that every poor in the country has a roof above them… I have more parameters added to it: there should be power, water, toilets, facilities for their children to be educated, elders to get health facilities. All our policies are moving towards to this,” he said.
To drive home his point, Modi said, “Compare the steps taken by the previous government in the railway sector. They concentrated on those sections that would be useful for rich — Shatabdi train, super fast, air-conditioned coaches. Look at this government, our focus has been on the common man’s facilities.”
He said that even during his recent foreign trips, he visited railway stations to see “how he could improve the quality of life for the common man”.
Modi added the government would save around Rs 200 crore if four lakh people gave up their subsidies on LPG cylinders. This money, he said, would not go to the Treasury but be used for providing LPG connections for those housewives who “struggle with the smoke in the kitchen”.
The Prime Minister said his government was working for the overall development of the country, across religion and caste. “Muslim children are very poorly educated. If my Muslim brothers’ children, or children of Dalits or backward classes are not educated, this country will not move forward,” he said.
His message to the MPs: “don’t weigh our action with politics, but for the nation… spend your time for those who want to listen to you and understand you.”