Prime Minister Narendra Modi didn’t hold back on Wednesday when he launched a scathing attack on the Gandhi family and the Congress in Parliament during a debate on the motion of thanks for the president’s address.
In the lower house, Modi accused the Congress of spending its time in power eulogising the Gandhi family at the cost of India’s development.
In his over 90-minute reply in the Lok Sabha to a debate on the motion of thanks for the president’s address, Modi alleged that lies were being spread to create a sense of disappointment among the middle class about his government.
Throughout Modi’s speech, Congress members were in the Well demanding that promises made to Andhra Pradesh following its division be fulfilled, questioning the Rafale deal and raised slogans targeting him.
Amid the din, an unfazed prime minister alleged Andhra Pradesh was suffering due to the “hasty decision” of the erstwhile United Progressive Alliance government to bifurcate the state in 2014 for “political benefits”.
The Congress had similarly divided the country at the time of independence for its selfish interests, he said.
“This is the same party that divided India. For decades, one party devoted all their energies in singing paeans to one family. The interests of the nation were over-looked just for the interests of one family,” he said in his hard-hitting address.
Claiming that his government has a vision for the country’s development while the Congress worked with a “petty mind”, he said the “biggest tunnel on land, the biggest tunnel under sea, the fastest train and the biggest gas pipe line” were being built by it.
“We have to create a new India. Let us all make our contribution to fulfil to create it,” he said, adding that criticism was democracy’s strength, but not lies.
The president’s address does not belong to one party but underlines the government’s direction, he said, and, in a dig, asked opposition leaders to read it again and “seek others’ help if they cannot understand its language.”
The Lok Sabha adopted the motion with a voice vote after opposition parties like the Congress, Trinamool Congress and the Left staged a walk out, saying Modi did not address issues raised by them like alleged corruption in Rafale deal.
Modi claimed that the Opposition has been attacking him as its leaders were “losing their sleep “due to his fight against corruption and black money.
Many of them are out on bail in corruption cases, he said and noted that four former chief ministers are behind bars.
“When the corrupt and middlemen are out of work, obviously the Congress will be unhappy... Nobody is going to be spared. Those who have robbed the country will have to return their loot to the common man,” he said amid thumping of desks by treasury benches and loud sloganeering by Congress members in the Well.
He termed the non-performing assets a “sin” of the UPA government and said he was giving its details for the first time as had he spoken earlier, it would have seriously
harmed the economy.
“NPAs are cent per cent a responsibility of the previous government. Banks were pressured and the chosen few were given loans,” he said.
He said the Congress gave wrong figures as NPAs were 82 per cent and not 36 per cent and added that the total advance made by banks rose from Rs 18 lakh crore to Rs 52 lakh crore.
“People should now know the truth.... It is the interest on what you squandered away. These are your sins,” Modi said targeting the Congress, and alleged that loans were given to the people who were close to those in power.
He said the opposition’s protest against his government’s use of Aadhaar was due to its scientific use to weed out corruption and give direct benefits to the people.
When his government took office in 2014, the chorus from the opposition was that he will scrap Aadhaar but when he made it more effective, they began opposing it, Modi said.
Countering criticism of the government over the issue of unemployment, he said opposition-ruled states of West Bengal, Kerala, Odisha and Karnataka have said that they have given employment to close to one crore people.
If the Centre is blamed for unemployment figures, then it should also be credited for employment data, he said.
“Don’t try to mislead the people,” he told referring to the opposition, adding that he had not cited figures of the BJP-ruled states but those where it was in power.
Seventy lakh new EPF accounts have been registered in the name of youths between 18-25 years of age, he said, citing measures like start-up India, skill India among others which have boosted the youth’s aspirations.
“I can see the energy and enthusiasm in our youth. They want to do something on their own, they want to launch their own start-ups. Our government is giving wings to aspirations of India’s middle class,” he said.
Targeting the Congress for its charge that his government was muzzling their voice and threatening democracy, he said it had no right to talk of democracy as he cited “coronation” of Rahul Gandhi as its president, “insults” meted out to a Dalit chief minister of Andhra Pradesh and a presidential candidate by former prime ministers Rajiv and Indira Gandhi respectively.
A Congress leader, he said, had likened Rahul’s elevation to Aurangzeb replacing Shahjahan and the latter taking over from Jahangir as Mughal kings. “And you talk of democracy!” he said making a jibe. “Don’t give sermons on democracy to us. We know what you have done in the past,” he said.
He also hit out at the Congress president, who was in the House, for presenting the government “in a wrong light” on his overseas trips. “Don’t you feel ashamed,” he asked without him.
When the Indian Army was involved in a stand-off with the Chinese army in Doklam, the Congress leader was speaking to Chinese officials, he said.
He recalled that BJP stalwart Atal Bihari Vajpayee had expressed his party’s reservations to then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi privately during the Shimla agreement with Pakistan and did not harm India with any public criticism.
Reaching out to middle class, which opposition said was not benefitted from the Union Budget, he said lies were being spread to create a sense of disappointment among them.
He said his government was working on many fronts, like boosting infrastructure, education and health sectors, to make “ease of living” better for them. It has got new benefits of over 12,000 crore, he said.
“During much of the Congress rule after independence, there was little opposition presence, radio and then television were controlled by you and even judicial appointments were made by the government,” he said.
But instead of focusing on the country’s development, Modi said, “You spent the time singing paeans to one family. You worked to ensure that everything else is forgotten and only one family is remembered by people. If your direction and intentions were right, then the country would have developed many times more.”
If Sardar Patel had been the country’s first prime minister, then a part of Jammu and Kashmir would not be in Pakistan’s control, he said, claiming that most units of the Congress had backed Patel over Jawaharlal Nehru, who eventually became prime minister.
Continuing his tirade against the Congress, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said the BJP was only following Mahatma Gandhi’s dream of ‘Congress Mukt Bharat’ and wondered whether the grand-old party still wanted the “Old India” marked by Emergency, scams and massacre of Sikhs.
Modi also urged the MPs to have a “constructive discussion” on holding of simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and the state assemblies.
He also criticised the Congress for non-passage of a bill to provide constitutional status to OBC Commission and the legislation against triple talaq. He questioned the grand old party for the long delay in conferring Bharat Ratna to Saradar Vallabh Bhai Patel and Constitution’s architect B R Ambedkar.
Earlier in the Lok Sabha, he said the country has been suffering due to the “wrong” policies the Congress has pursued since independence as the party has spent time singing paeans to one family instead of focussing on people’s welfare.
In the Upper House, Modi countered Opposition criticism of his government’s vision of ‘New India’ and said the Congress wanted ‘Old India’, a country envisaged by Mahatma Gandhi.
“I also want India of Gandhi’s dream. And Gandhi had said since the country has got independence, now Congress is not required and should be disbanded.
“This Congress-mukt Bharat is Gandhi’s dream. We are trying to follow the path shown by him,” Modi said amid thumping benches by ruling party members.
He said the Congress wanted an India of the Emergency, Bofors, Chopper scams and the Tandoor case and wondered if the party wanted a India where thousands of Sikhs were killed after a ‘big tree falls’, in apparent reference to 1984 Sikh riots following killing of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Modi sought to corner the Congress on the Bofors issue and quoted senior congress leader and former President of India late R Venkataraman, who in his biography has
referred to his meeting with noted industrialist JRD Tata.
“Tata said he felt that after 1980 the Congress party did not ask for poll funding from industrialist as the parties expense were run from the commission coming from defence deals,” Modi said quoting Venkataraman.
Modi also took a dig at the opposition party when he quoted Jairam Ramesh having said that though the ‘Sultanate’ has gone, the leaders continue to behave like ‘Sultans’, by lauded the Congress leader for seeking out openly.
Taking a jibe at the opposition parties, the prime minister said “Why should anyone feel bad if the country improves ‘ease of doing business’ rating? It is beyond comprehension. If nothing, some even start questioning the credibility of the rating agency just because it has did not happen under their rule!”
He said the Congress party while criticising BJP or Modi, start criticising India which adversely affects the country.
“Look at what all you mocked -- Swachh Bharat, Make in India, surgical strikes, Yoga Day. You are free to mock as you please but why are you blocking the bill for OBC Commission? Why are you blocking Triple Talaq Bill. Are you not sensitive to the aspirations of OBCs,” he posed.
Referring to his recent visit to Davos, Modi said he went there and Congress also went there. “But the difference is -- you went with a letter to save someone,” he claimed.
Taking on the Congress for accusing his government of only repackaging or renaming old schemes and programmes, the prime minister said “You call us name changers....we are aim changers -- we work hard and have ushered in a paradigm shift in the working of the Government. Innovative projects are being thought of and completed in a time bound manner.”
On Congress statements that it had brought Aadhaar scheme, he said “let me remind them about a debate in the Rajya Sabha in 1998 and what LK Advani ji said. It is in his speech that you will find the genesis of Aadhaar.”
Modi sought constructive suggestions from all parties for government’s healthcare programme ‘Ayushman Bharat’.
Raising the issue of simultaneous polls, he said thousands of crore are spent in conducting elections and so much time and energy goes into holding them and asked whether a country like India can afford it. He sought the opposition’s cooperation in working out a solution in this regard.
Modi said the government was always looking for suggestions, feedback and input on its schemes. “After all, we are working for the nation and the poor,” he said.
Referring to Leader of Opposition’s remarks that BJP chief Amit Shah did not take Sardar Patel’s name in his speech, he said Congress was using the picture of the first home minister during the Gujarat assembly elections, but it was not displayed in its programme just after the polls.
The PM highlighted achievements of his government that came into power in May 2014 and urged other parties to ask their state governments to allocate budget for bringing in behaviourial changes among people, especially in relation to Swachh Bharat programme.