Just as the Congress appeared to be cornering the government questioning the government’s silence on the Rafale deal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today utilised his address to both houses of Parliament on the motion of thanks to the President’s address to put the Congress on the backfoot. In separate speeches that were replete with what appears to have set the tone for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Modi led an aggressive charge against the Congress for partition, Kashmir issue, using Sardar Patel for political gains and its obstructive approach to parliament and progressive legislation. Using a judicious mix of humour and sarcasm, the Prime Minister tore into the Congress in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. While the first half of the day was devoted to the PM’s speech in the Lok Sabha, which saw Congress members raise slogans through the entire 90 minutes of the Prime Minister’s speech, the second half saw the PM address the Rajya Sabha, which saw an equal number of fireworks.
1. ‘Congress-mukt Bharat Mahatma Gandhi’s dream’
The Prime Minister said in Rajya Sabha that much like the Congress, he too wanted an India that Mahatma Gandhi had dreamt of. Citing history, Modi recalled how Gandhi had said that since India had achieved Independence, there was no need for the Congress. Modi said it was Mahatma Gandhi who had dreamt of a “Congress-mukt Bharat” and not him.
2. When Modi was reminded of Ramanand Sagar
Early in his speech, Modi was talking about how the Congress kept taking credit for Aadhaar but observed how the idea finds its genesis in the tenure of Atal Behari Vajpayee’s government. No sooner had he said this, one female member of the opposition burst into laughter. When Venkaiah Naidu objected to the behaviour, saying, “what happened to you.. consult a doctor if you are unwell,” Modi intervened and requested the Chair not to chide the member. Reminiscing Ramanand Sagar’s magnum opus from yesteryear, Modi said he had not heard such laughter since the telecast of Ramayan serial.
3. NPA a ‘Congress legacy’
Blaming the erstwhile Congress-led UPA government for NPA mess in banks, Modi said in Lok Sabha that his government was facing unfair criticism for the “sins” of the Congress. The UPA government, Modi alleged, had concealed the correct value of stressed assets. Modi claimed that he remained silent despite knowing the truth and was coming out in the open with evidence as banks were regaining health. Modi said Congress gave false NPA figures of 36 percent instead of 82 percent.
4. ‘Sardar Patel used for political gains’
Speaking in the Lower House earlier in the day, Modi sought to call out “Congress’ doublespeak” on Sardar Patel and asserted that Pakistan wouldn’t have managed to get an inch of Kashmir had Patel been Prime Minister at the time of partition. Modi said that during the campaign for Gujarat polls, he was delighted to find Sardar Patel on every Congress poster. He noted how glad he felt that the state was witnessing such a day after so many years. But within a month of the elections, Patel disappeared from posters, Modi said, adding that Congress had only used Sardar Patel’s name for political gains.
5. Give ‘full credit’ to Congress
In his speech in the Rajya Sabha today, Modi said that he has always maintained that all previous governments have made a contribution to the nation’s development so far. He, however, noted that if the Congress claims credit for the works done by this government, it must also take credit for things that happened during its tenure as well. The Congress should also take credit for delaying legislation, for the distress in the economy, for recession as well as for job losses.
6. Aim-changers, not ‘name-changers’
Referring to senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad’s remark against his government of only changing names of schemes and claiming credit for it, the Prime Minister countered it saying the mode of work of its government shows that it is target-oriented and works hard towards it. Modi said that his government’s working pattern shows that they are “aim-changers” and that the government plans its action, sets a roadmap and works to take it to a logical conclusion.
7. Modi’s cricket analogy
Referring to the Congress’ pattern of working, Modi referred to the number of schemes and programmes that it began when in government but left them midway when things turned difficult or unfavourable. Modi then cited a ‘cricket analogy’ to drive home his point. “When children play cricket, the batsman walks away from the game once he is dismissed,” Modi said, suggesting that governance was something that should not have similar standards applied to.
8. Jail for triple talaq: ‘Why no thought for Hindus?’
Asserting that his government had taken a clear stand against the practice of triple talaq, Modi questioned the Congress for protesting provisions that seek to criminalise it. Modi said that if the Congress had a problem with making triple talaq a punishable offence under the law, it could have framed a law as per its likes when the case came before it 30 years ago. He also questioned the logic of some opposition parties that an accused under the triple talaq law could be an only child, and may have responsibilities of old parents and that imprisoning him could have bad consequences. “When a Hindu who marries twice goes to jail, why no thought for his family?” Modi wondered.
9. ‘Criticising BJP is criticising India’
When slamming Modi, you end up criticising the country, Modi said. Listing out the programmes of the government that the Congress had “mocked” — Swachh Bharat, Make in India, surgical strikes, Yoga Day — the PM said that advertently or otherwise, by mocking him and the BJP the Congress was criticising the nation. In an apparent bid to make a political point, Modi wondered why the Congress was blocking the bill for OBC Commission and asked whether the party was insensitive to the aspirations of OBCs.
10.’Only Bhashan’: Opposition reacts
The PM’s statements in both houses were met with stiff resistance from Opposition parties. While Sonia and Rahul Gandhi questioned the PM’s silence on the issue of farmers, jobs and the Rafale deal, saying people expect jobs, not speeches, the Trinamool Congress staged a walkout from Rajya Sabha during the PM’s speech. Derek O’Brien said the PM said nothing on the questions raised by the opposition. “Only Bhashan, no action, no vision so after 15 minutes TMC staged a walkout from Rajya Sabha while the PM was speaking,” he said.