The Congress on Tuesday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of taking a 'vow of silence' on issues such as the ethnic violence in Manipur and Chinese incursions, and said opposition parties were forced to bring a no-confidence motion against the government to make him speak up.
Initiating the debate on the motion in the Lok Sabha, Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi posed a series of three questions focused on Manipur -- why the prime minister had not visited Manipur, why it took 80 days to break the silence on the state and why he had not sacked the chief minister.
Gogoi also put forward three demands, saying the opposition wanted Modi to visit Manipur, lead an all-party delegation to the north-eastern state and make sincere efforts to restore peace by meeting various organisations there.
Going on to list his reasons for Modi's silence, he alleged, "It was because the state government failed to deal with the ethnic violence in Manipur and the Home Department and the National Security Advisor failed to handle the situation.
"The third reason for the prime minister's silence is that he does not like to accept his mistakes. He will never accept publicly that his state government has failed. He prefers to remain silent than accept mistakes."
Parties of the opposition grouping Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) were forced to bring the no-confidence motion as this was never about numbers but about justice for Manipur, he said.
"If Manipur is burning, entire India is burning, if Manipur is divided, the country is divided. It was our demand that as the leader of the country, Prime Minister Modi should come to the House and speak about Manipur. However, he kept a 'maun vrat' (vow of silence) that he will neither speak in the Lok Sabha nor in the Rajya Sabha," the Congress MP from Assam said.
"Through the no-confidence motion we want to break his vow of silence," he said.
Gogoi said he would like to ask the prime minister why he had not gone to Manipur, when Rahul Gandhi had gone as had Home Minister Shah and the minister of state for home (Nityanand Rai).
"Why did he (PM Modi) take about 80 days to speak on Manipur and just spoke for 30 seconds. After that there has been no peace appeal on Manipur from him. Ministers are saying they will speak, but as PM the power of his words cannot be matched by ministers," Gogoi said.
"When people were gasping for breath during the second wave of Covid, the prime minister was seeking votes in West Bengal. When women were being assaulted in Manipur, the prime minister was seeking votes in Karnataka. What kind of nationalism is this that places power above the nation," Gogoi, the deputy leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, asked.
The Congress member said it was a matter of grave concern that a government which talked about "one India" had created "two Manipurs -- one living in hills and the other in the valley".
He recalled that former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had visited Gujarat after the 2002 communal riots.
Hitting out at Modi on his silence on other issues, Gogoi said, "When award winning women wrestlers were protesting on the streets, the prime minister remained silent. When 750 farmers lost their lives during the agitation, the prime minister was silent. In 2020, when Delhi witnessed riots and a foreign leader was visiting India, the prime minister remained silent."
Amid vociferous protests from BJP members, the Congress leader added that the prime minister was also silent when Rahul Gandhi levelled allegations that a particular businessman benefited when he accompanied him on a foreign visit.
"When we questioned the government on incursions by China, the prime minister remained silent. When a former lt governor of Jammu and Kashmir said he had sought protection for the soldiers in Pulwama but was turned down, the prime minister remained silent," Gogoi said.
As the lower house took up the motion moved by Gogoi, there were heated exchanges between the opposition and treasury benches after Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi wondered why Rahul Gandhi's name as lead speaker was withdrawn last minute.
Gogoi's response whether conversations inside Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla's chamber should be revealed in the House evoked a sharp retort from Home Minister Amit Shah who said the member cannot make unsubstantiated claims.
Gogoi said he expected the prime minister to make efforts to restore peace in Manipur, but he was busy criticising the INDIA coalition.
"The prime minister is busy maligning the INDIA alliance. It is unfortunate that you are engaged in maligning the name of the country. When you talk of Popular Front of India, Indian Mujhahideen and East India Company, we talk of Indian Institute of Technology, we talk about Indian Space Research Organization, we talk about Indian Police Force, we talk about Indian Air Force," he said.
According to Gogoi, hatred has become a weapon to win votes, be it in Manipur, Haryana, Karnataka or Madhya Pradesh.
"No matter how much hatred you spread, we are determined to open 'mohabbat ki dukan' in your 'nafrat ka bazaar'," Gogoi said.
The Congress leader said the government likes to talk big about India being the fastest growing economy, and urged him to tell the same to the poor vegetable vendor at the Azadpur wholesale market who was finding it diffcult to eke out a living.