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No-trust debate: Best and Worst performers

July 21, 2018 20:35 IST

'The biggest winner of the day was Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan who ran her ship with self-confidence and aplomb, says Sudhir Bisht.

The Modi Sarkar subjugated the divided Opposition by a score of 325-126 in a 12 hour match on July 20 in a game called the 'No-Confidence Motion'.

The result was easy to predict, but what is heartening is the fact that the Lok Sabha functioned for one full day with nearly all members in attendance.

I sat glued to the television from start to finish and I give my assessment of the best and worst performers of the day.

 

IMAGE: Speaker Sumitra Mahajan conducts proceedings in the Lok Sabha. Photograph: PTI photo

The biggest winner of the day was Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan who ran her ship with self-confidence and aplomb.

She was undoubtedly the biggest star of the day. I would like to remind Rediff readers here that I wrote in December 2016 that the Speaker and the Vice-President must share the blame if any Parliamentary session is washed out.

I am happy that the Lok Sabha Speaker took it upon herself to see the motion was put to vote smoothly.

She played the role of a pacifier who assuaged the hurt feelings of some members and she roared like a tigress when some members tried to disrupt the House.

The way she managed to subdue Mallikarjun Kharge, the leader of the Indian National Congress, was remarkable.

When Kharge didn't pay heed her repeated requests to conclude his speech, she gave permission to the next member to speak.

As a befuddled Kharge appeared distraught, Speaker Mahajan gave him a final one minute to conclude. To his credit, the veteran Congress leader took the hint and concluded his speech almost immediately.

It was a master move by the Speaker. She showed the House who the boss was and by letting Kharge complete his speech, she gave a message that she could melt too, but only if she wanted to.

I think that is the only way Parliament can function in a productive way.

The way she handled the forced hugging of Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi by a hyper-excited Rahul Gandhi was a class act too.

She reproached the Congress president, but qualified that by saying that her observations were in her capacity as a mother-like figure and not as Speaker of the House.

The second big winner was Prime Minister Modi who turned the no-confidence motion debate into a campaign for the next Lok Sabha election.

With the entire nation watching him, he proved yet again that as a debater he is unmatched.

There is no leader in the Opposition ranks who can come anywhere near him in oratory.

The sequencing of the parts of his speech, the references that he picks, the pauses that he takes, the little dance movements of his very large fingers, the modulation of his voice, the clinching of his fists, the occasional clap of his right palm with his left index finger and the rich baritone that God has bestowed upon him make him the best-ever debater in the Parliamentary history of India, on par with Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Modi used his time on television to demoralise the Opposition by telling them that they should come back with the same motion towards the fag end of the next Lok Sabha in 2024.

He was able to sow the seeds of disunity in the Opposition by praising Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao.

He was able to send the message to people of Andhra Pradesh that he stood by them even as their gullible chief minister was playing in the hands of Jaganmohan Reddy of the YSR Congress.

Modi also destroyed the reputation of the Congress party by giving several references from the past when Congress propped up certain groups to power only to dump them after a while.

The third big winner was Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

The HM has often played second fiddle to Modi in the Lok Sabha and to Amit Anilchandra Shah outside Parliament.

Far too often he has been reduced to a figurehead who could only utter hackneyed phrases like 'kadi ninda (strong condemnation)' when confronted by journalists on the killings of our soldiers in Kashmir.

The fact his ministry has a great track record in fighting Maoist terror groups is seldom mentioned in the media- -- mainstream or social.

The no confidence motion gave Rajnath Singh -- MSc (physics) from Uttar Pradesh -- to come into his own.

The fact that he had prepared his speech very well was clear to all as he spoke with confidence and complete ease.

He referred to written notes only when he had to give out numbers and he largely spoke extempore.

He spoke about the government's achievements in all fields. From job creation to the rising GDP and to the ease of doing business, the HM spoke for 56 minutes, covering issues like the funds that have been released to Andhra Pradesh.

Rajnath Singh finally gave a speech that was expected from a man of his stature. His speech must have warmed the hearts of many in Uttar Pradesh.

IMAGE: TDP MP Ram Mohan Naidu Kinjarapu speaks in the Lok Sabha on the no-confidence motion, July 20, 2018. Photograph: PTI Photo

The fourth big winner, according to me and this could surprise many readers, is Ram Mohan Naidu K, the young MP from Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh.

By the time Ram Mohan's turn to speak arrived, many had forgotten the name of the party that had moved the no-confidence motion.

The motion was moved by Ram Mohan's party colleague Jayadev Galla, but the speakers after that didn't mention Andhra Pradesh much in their addresses, for or against the motion.

Ram Mohan was able to bring the focus back to Andhra, but he wasn't parochial in his approach in a crass manner.

When he demanded funds for his state, he gave examples of other states to whom funds were released in the past.

The content of his speech was crisp and concise. He spoke about the need for creation of a railway zone in Visakhapatnam with facts and figures.

He reminded the ruling party of Modi's promise to build a new capital city in the new Andhra Pradesh that would be better than the capital of India.

He spoke of the need for the Metro rail project and wondered if Delhi and Mumbai could have a high speed freight corridor, then why couldn't Vizag and Chennai have one too?

He made comparisons with other states and his comparisons were not outlandish. The important part of Ram Mohan's speech was that he spoke extempore and spoke in chaste Hindustani.

This made his speech comprehensible to millions of Indians who don't understand English.

He was able to put the zing back in the TDP motion. I would rate his speech as one of the best speeches on the day and I wonder why this first-time MP was not given the opportunity to open the debate in place of Jayadev Galla.

Ram Mohan Maidu K is one MP to watch out in times to come.

A big loser was the man who opened the debate in the Lok Sabha at 11:18 am.

Jayadev Galla, the man who has declared his assets to be worth Rs 600 crores (Rs 6 billion) in an affidavit, spoke for 58 minutes.

His speech was centered on Andhra Pradesh as if the Republic of India was confined to the state boundaries of Andhra Pradesh.

Galla has a degree in economics and political science from University of Illinois and speaks with a clipped accent. His English is fine, but his reading out a long speech straight from a paper, without looking up even once, was uninspiring.

A long speech can be made interesting by sprinkling it with some humour. But Galla's speech was like the renditions of Devdas, pining for his Chandramukhi.

Galla was not shy of dueling with Speaker Mahajan, with a shadow of arrogance and belligerence when she asked him to stick to his time schedule.

A member who was given nearly 55 minutes to open the debate was not asking for an extension of time with humility, but was demanding it as a matter of his right.

Not a very gracious sight, I say.

Another big loser was Dinesh Trivedi of the Trinamool Congress.

Ordinarily, Trivedi is a reasonably good speaker who doesn't succumb to a form-over-content style of speaking.

But on the debate on July 20, he was unimpressive in form as well as in content.

He started out with a rather unintelligent jibe that his request for postponement of the date of the debate wasn't acceded to.

He informed the House that his party celebrates July 21 as 'Martyr's Day' and he and his MPs had wished to be in Bengal on that day and hence he had requested that the debate be taken up on July 23.

He went to say how not agreeing to his request proved that the hovernment had a wide chest, but a small heart.

Trivedi didn't stop at that as he took a crack at the ruling party and said it knows nothing about martyrdom.

'Aap ka kabhi palla nahin pada hoga (you may never have had any cause to deal with it),' Trivedi said.

Upon checking with my friends from Bengal, I learnt that July 21 is commemorated as 'Martyr's Day' in remembrance of the shooting of 13 Youth Congress workers in police firing on July 21, 1993.

That agitation was led by the present chief minister of Bengal, Mamata Banerjee.

Dinesh Trivedi for me is a surprise loser on the debate.

His speech was full of rhetoric, aimed at pleasing the TDP in anticipation of buying its support to prop up Mamata Banerjee as one of the contenders for the leadership of a united Opposition, as and when that elusive unity is achieved.

Another entity that lost out was the group of 18 Biju Janta Dal MPs who walked out minutes before the debate.

I can understand the predicament of these MPs. They don't want to be seen supporting the government led by the BJP, a party that is taking them on, with all guns blazing in the state politics of Odisha.

They also don't want be seen standing with the Opposition whose fulcrum remains the dilapidated Indian National Congress, which is still the second largest party in the Odisha assembly.

But they should have participated in the debate and put forth their points of view.

Their leader, Bhartruhari Mahtab, could have spoken on key issues of governance, fund allocation and Centre-state relations.

The biggest loser in the debate was not the TDP, the party that introduced the motion and lost.

The party with all the egg on its face is the Shiv Sena whose 18 MPs stood outside the House only to announce that they would not attend Friday's Lok Sabha session.

It was as if 18 schoolboys in a class had decided to mass-bunk an examination because they were not prepared for it.

The voters of Maharashtra would surely get an impression that the Shiv Sena MPs are neither with the NDA nor with the Opposition, nor do they want to go solo.

They always seem to be in a state of bargaining and negotiation with the main power blocs. Not a very good picture of the representatives of a state that has the highest GSDP (Gross State Domestic Product) in India.

IMAGE: In this combo of four photographs is seen Congress President Rahul Gandhi as he hugs Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi after his speech in the Lok Sabha on the no-confidence motion, July 20, 2018. Photograph: PTI Photo

I have deliberately not included Rahul Gandhi's speech in my analysis as I personally feel that Rahul made an impressive speech but wasted it all by the theatrics of a fake embrace of the man who is a thorn in the side of the Congress party.

His wink after the embrace took away the innocence factor from Rahul Gandhi's behaviour.

It is a matter of concern that the oldest national party is stuck with Rahul Gandhi at the helm.

Finally, let me come to the mother of all questions in the domain of art and craft of public oratory in Parliament.

Is there any MP who can take on Narendra Damodardas Modi in a Hindi debate?

Yes, there is one. And she sits two seats away from Modi, but fortunately for the party, she is on the same side.

Sushma Swaraj, take a bow!

I wish you had spoken and mesmerised us with your oratory.

Sudhir Bisht, PhD, author and columnist, tweets at @sudhir_bisht

Sudhir Bisht