Targeting the Congress in his first speech in Parliament after winning the Lok Sabha elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Tuesday said it has never recognised the efforts of anyone except members of the “family” and that its leaders have “risen so high” that they have lost touch with the country’s roots.
Replying to the Motion of Thanks on the President’s Address in Lok Sabha, Modi, while underscoring that the Congress had no right to repeatedly criticise him, attacked the Congress on the Emergency, for failing to empower Muslims and for ignoring its own leaders.
“From 2004 to 2014, not once did you mention the name of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. There are some people who feel only a few names contributed to national progress. They only want to hear those few names and ignore the others,” he said.
“We think differently, we feel each and every citizen has worked for India’s progress… Did they ever speak about the good work of Narasimha Raoji? In this Lok Sabha debate, the same people did not even speak of Manmohanji.” The Prime Minister also said that he was not happy making this point in the House, but was forced to do so since Congress leaders have repeatedly criticised him for taking credit. “Thus far and no further,” he said, and warned the Congress to stop this campaign against him.
Defending his government, Modi said, “If you did (give credit), you would have given the Bharat Ratna to Narasimha Rao, to Manmohan Singh. We gave the Bharat Ratna to Pranab Mukherjee for his contribution to the nation.”
The Prime Minister also mocked leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury’s assertion Monday that the BJP’s efforts could not diminish the “high” stature of the party. He said that the Congress had “risen so high” that it had lost touch with its roots.
“It was said here that no one can diminish your high stature. Now you have gone so high that you are unable to see the ground. You have lost your roots. You think whoever is on the ground is lowly and dirty. We are not people who waste their time in dragging someone down. We are too busy bringing ourselves up. I pray that you rise further; it is good for us. We are not competing with you on this. We are happy being grounded and with the people,” he said, as NDA MPs thumped desks.
Modi also made an oblique reference to the triple talaq Bill, saying the Congress had missed many opportunities to empower Muslims. After citing the Shah Bano case and the Uniform Civil Code, Modi quoted a former Congress leader as having said that it was not the duty of their party to uplift Muslims and “if they want to lie in gutter let them be”.
When his remarks drew sharp protests from the Congress, Modi said he would send them a YouTube link of the interview. He did not reveal the identity of the leader.
The Prime Minister said he is being criticised for not putting its leaders in jail, an apparent reference to its top leaders Rahul and Sonia Gandhi, and then retorted that at least they are on bail and “enjoying themselves”.
Modi also reminded the Congress of the Emergency, which was imposed by Indira Gandhi on this day in 1975, saying it is a blot on democracy that will never fade. “A few people were constantly asking during the debate, who did it? who did it? I want to ask them, today is June 25. Who imposed the Emergency? Who trampled over the spirit of the Constitution, gagged the media and bullied the judiciary? We can’t forget those dark days,” he said.
And amid a growing water crisis across the country, Modi also said that the issue of water scarcity had to be looked at seriously and requested the cooperation of all parties to tide over the problem.
“We have to look at water scarcity seriously. I request all to contribute to the conservation of water. It is the poor and women who suffer the most due to water scarcity. (Ram Manohar) Lohia had said that it is women who suffer the problem of water and toilets the most. That is why we have worked on it,” he said.
The Prime Minister also urged participation from the corporate world. “The corporate world has no investment in the farm sector. Merely making tractors is not enough. We need storage facilities, markets. We will bring policies to facilitate investment by the corporate sector in agriculture,” Modi said.
As his speech wound down, Modi quoted Jawaharlal Nehru. He said the time had come to shift the country’s paradigm from a rights approach to the approach of duties. He said, “I would like to read a quote… India has shown to the world that duties come before rights. Rights flow out of duties… If we fight for rights and well-being, and in doing so, if we forget our duties, rights and well-being will be with us no longer.”