Replying to the debate on the motion of thanks on the President’s Address in Parliament, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Wednesday launched a blistering attack on the Congress and its first family. In back-to-back speeches, he underlined that the “New India” initiatives of his government were qualitatively different from the ones of “Old India” championed by the Congress.
He said the Old India was littered with scams like Bofors, excesses which were seen during Emergency and the killing of Sikhs in 1984. Replying to the Congress’s barbs that his government was merely repackaging UPA schemes and was a “name changer”, Modi said his government was an “aim chaser.”
The repeated references to the Congress and its past betrayed the Prime Minister’s attempt to set the political discourse with an eye on elections.
His speech was conspicuously silent on other Opposition groups like the Communists, Socialists and various regional players who have been critical of his party and government.
Apart from his broadside against the Congress’s record on governance, he questioned the Nehru-Gandhi family’s pre-eminence during the Congress rule. So much so that he invoked Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, claiming that the veteran was prevented from becoming the Congress chief and argued had Patel been chosen, a part of Kashmir would not have gone to Pakistan. He accused the Congress of “breaking up the country” (desh ke tukde kiye) and said that crores were spent on newspaper advertisements every year on the birth anniversaries of members of one family.
Hours later, Congress president Rahul Gandhi hit back saying the Prime Minister was dwelling on the past as he “does not know how to take India forward.”
“We are happy with the Prime Minister to be obsessed with the Congress party but it is a dis-service for our Prime Minister to spend much time on the Congress and so little on the future of the nation. The nation has reposed its trust in the Prime Minister. It expects the Prime Minister to respond with seriousness towards its problems,” he said.
In an apparent reference to Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad’s appeal to get “Old India back,” Modi said: “The President in his speech had spoken about New India. Swami Vivekananda had also spoken about New India…Mahatma Gandhi also used to speak about young India…I don’t know what is the problem. They (while pointing towards the Congress benches) don’t want new India. They want the old India. They want Gandhi’s Bharat. I also want Gandhi’s Bharat.”
“Because Gandhi had said…we have got freedom. There was no need for the Congress now. Congress should be disbanded. Congress-mukt Bharat is not Modi’s thought. It was Gandhi’s thought. We are trying to follow the path shown by him…If you want that India…kya sena ka jeep ghotale wala Bharat, the submarine scam India, the Bofors scam India, helicopter scam India, you don’t want new India. You want that India. You want Emergency-wala India…which had converted the country into a jail,” he said.
“You want that India where JP, Morarji Desai and lakhs of people were jailed…you want that India where democratic rights of the people were snatched…newspapers were shut down…you want that India. Which India do you want? You want that India in which after a big tree falls…thousands of innocent Sikhs are murdered….you don’t want new India. You want that India in which the tandoor case happened…in which those accused of the death of thousands of people are sent abroad on a plane…You also went to Davos, I too went to Davos but you sent somebody with somebody’s letter….you want that India,” he said in his 70-minute speech.
He accused the Congress of criticising India while attacking his government.
“You should criticise the BJP…do it strongly. It is your right. You should criticise Modi also. Baal noch lena chahiye. You have every right to do that in a democracy. But while criticising BJP….you forget and start criticising India. You slip. Aap Modi par hamla bolte bolte, Hindustan par hamla bol lete hain jaake.. in politics you have the right. Par iske kaaran maryada laang lete hain aur usse desh ka bohot nuksaan hota hain,” he said.
Modi said the Congress was behaving like a truant child who walks out with the bat after he gets out. “You are also the same. You think you will get batting all the time. If you haven’t got batting, you will walk away…”
In the Lok Sabha, Modi held the Congress responsible for the economic woes, slow progress, crony capitalism and deeply entrenched corruption. Describing bad loans of banks as a Congress “sin”, he dismissed talk of rising unemployment as misinformation. He rejected the Congress’s claim that it was instrumental in instilling democratic traditions in the country after independence.
“Do you know there was democracy during the rule of the Lichchavi? The Baudh Sangh had a tradition of discussions and consultations. Do not insult (Kannada philosopher-statesman) Basaveshwarji whose Anubhava Mantapa was an example of democracy in the 12th century. Democracy is part of our tradition. We had a republic 2,500 years ago,” Modi said.
He attacked the Congress for “subverting democracy” throughout its rule and said Rajiv Gandhi had insulted the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, “a Scheduled Caste CM”, and later N T Rama Rao, leading to the birth of the TDP. He said the Congress had used Article 356 several times to overthrow democratically elected governments in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and other states.
Taking a swipe at Rahul Gandhi, he recalled how “a Congress office-bearer” tore up a Cabinet decision of his own Prime Minister before the media. And then referring to how Congressmen asked Sonia Gandhi to become Prime Minister in 2004, Modi said, “Jab antaratma ki awaz aati hai to democracy kahan chali jaati hai?… Is your democracy meant only for one family?”
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