Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today broke his silence in Parliament to denounce communalism and to assert...
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today broke his silence in Parliament to denounce communalism and to assert that his government stood for prospering of all religions while he offered to make changes if necessary in the land bill in farmers’ interest.
In a 75-minute speech in the Lok Sabha, combining aggression against the Congress with appeals to the opposition, he declared that as Prime Minister, it was his “responsibility” not to allow “anaap shanap (ridiculous) comments on religion or discrimination on religious basis.
Against the backdrop of criticism that he maintained silence over statements made by fringe elements, Modi said he has thousand means to “shut their mouths” but he cannot be expected to waste time by making comments on all these statements.
In a spirited reply to the debate on the Motion of Thanks to the President’s address in Lok Sabha, he also expressed willingness to make changes in the land bill as he reached out to opposition for support, saying they should shed politics and ego and not make it a prestige issue.
Again he taunted Congress saying it cannot be “arrogant” that the land law passed by it is the best.
Responding point by point to the issues raised by the opposition, he took pot-shots at Congress repeatedly while referring to corruption, black money, MNREGA and coal block allocations.
The Prime Minister was particularly severe on the Congress on its pet scheme MNREGS calling it a “living monument” of poverty in the country even 60 years after independence.
“Do you think, I will put an end to the scheme. My political wisdom does not allow me to do it. This is a living monument of your failure to tackle poverty in 60 years. With song and dance and drum beat, I will continue with the scheme,” he said amidst thumping of desks by the ruling benches and consternation among the Congress members.
During the debate, the Congress members had accused the Modi government of not implementing the MNREGS.
At the end of his speech, Leader of the Congress Mallikarjun Kharge accused Modi of making “fun” of a programme for the poor and said in Gujarat after so many years of his rule still poverty reigned supreme.
The House adopted the motion of thanks to the President’s address rejecting a TMC member’s amendment in a division with 51 voting for the amendment and 203 against.
The member Saugata Roy wanted the speech to include a reference to the secular nature of the country and regretted the absence of issues like “ghar wapsi” programme of VHP and RSS. All the other opposition amendments were rejected by a voice vote.
Modi sought cooperation of the opposition for his government’s initiatives like empowerment of states to strengthen federalism, cleanliness drive and Jan Dhan and efforts to fight corruption and black money.
Referring to the issue of communalism, Modi asserted, “Nobody has the right to discriminate on the basis of religion… “No one has the right to take law into his hands.”
He said “Communalism for political reasons has destroyed the country. Hearts have been broken”.
Asking why questions were being “posed to us” and to their commitment, he said, “My government’s only religion is ‘India first’, my government’s only religious book is ‘Indian Constitution’, our only devotion is ‘Bharat Bhakti’ and our only prayer is ‘welfare of all’.”
His statement assumes significance as he has been under attack over certain communal remarks made by some BJP and Sangh parivar leaders besides attacks on churches.
Insisting that “We want all religions to prosper”, the Prime Minister said that is possible only in India under its Constitution, which has been prepared with the thinking of thousands of years of the country’s history.
“This nation is full of diversity. We are for unity in diversity, not disunity. All religions should flourish. It is the uniqueness of India because of its Constitution,” he said.
“We want to take the nation forward within the framework of the Constitution,” Modi said, adding he saw only the “tricolor” and “no other colour”.
Recalling his election rally in Patna in October 2013 which was rocked by serial bomb blasts, Modi said he had then “asked who should Hindus fight with–with Muslims or poverty? I had asked Muslims, do you want to fight with Hindus or poverty. We have fought enough. Now let us unite and fight against poverty.”
Referring to his slogan of ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’, he said he sought the cooperation of the opposition also for the benefit of the country.
Talking about the land bill, he said, “If you feel there are still any shortcomings, I am ready for any changes in it….Don’t make it an issue of your prestige.”
Seeking the support of opposition in the passage of the bill, which is facing stiff resistance from allies and others, Modi said the move is in farmers’ interests and that there should be no ego.
“All parties should work together to correct the mistakes in the previous Act of 2013,” he said.
Addressing Congress, he said, “We should not have ego that there can be nothing better than what we did. When you passed the Land Act (in 2013), we stood shoulder to shoulder with you. We knew that you want to take political mileage out of it. Still we stood by you.”
He said his government wanted to make changes in the Land Act passed during the UPA tenure because all the Chief Ministers had said it was against farmers’ interest and hampered development and infrastructure creation.
“…when our government was formed, CMs of all parties said in one voice: Please think about farmers, they want irrigation and infrastructure.
You made such a law which is against farmers’ interest.
“Are we so arrogant that we will ignore the voice of CMs in a federal structure? Can we ignore farmers interest? Is it not our responsibility to correct the mistake, if any? Whatever you have done, we are not rejecting it. Do not weigh this in the balance of politics,” he said.