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NEW DELHI: In what sounded like a warm-up speech for the 2019 elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hit out at Congress as a poor loser who wanted another chance after being bowled out and said its sermons on democracy sounded trite and hollow given the monopoly of one family on power.
Clearly stung by continuous heckling by Congress MPs in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, Modi said, “Ye democracy ki baat aap ke mooh mein shobha nahin deti (Talk of democracy ill-suits you).” He went on to accuse the party of a tradition of undemocratic rule that began with Sardar Patel being denied the Prime Ministership to favour Jawaharlal Nehru to the election of Rahul Gandhi as party chief.
Coming against the backdrop of BJP’s setbacks in Rajasthan bypolls and Congress’s new-found confidence, the Prime Minister’s remarks pointed to an escalation of confrontation between the rivals during the ensuing state elections and the forthcoming test in Karnataka.
Modi had to face heckling by Congress MPs in the Lok Sabha. But he more than matched the aggression by recalling the allegations of corruption, especially in defence purchases, promotion of the interests of one particular family at the cost of everyone else and intolerance for dissent. The PM also highlighted jump in NPAs and high rate of inflation under UPA even as he listed NDA’s achievements.
Continuing his scathing attack against Congress a little later in the Rajya Sabha, the PM said the party which had turned the country into a large jail during Emergency hankered after “Old India” of the Emergency, scams and massacre of Sikhs, while BJP wanted to create a “New India”.
In hard-hitting political speeches, Modi utilised the reply to the Motion of Thanks on the President’s address to slam Congress for having spent the decades it has been in office in promoting one family alone. “India would be in a much better situation if you had put your near monopoly on power to better use,” he said.
Repeatedly taunting Congress benches — “you are lecturing us on democracy” — Modi said Congress governments had invoked Article 356 no less than 90 times to dismiss opposition governments in the states. “You did not allow other parties to grow,” he said, and added that Rajiv Gandhi had humiliated T Anjaiah, a Dalit and an “elected” CM in Andhra Pradesh. “The birth of TDP came out of the fire of that humiliation,” he said.
After asserting that Jammu and Kashmir would have been intact had Patel been the PM, Modi said the process of Partition had led to lasting ills. “Not a single day has passed when the country has not suffered due to the poison sowed by you,” he said and even referred to Rahul Gandhi’s elevation as example of mock democracy, without naming the Congress leader.
With Congress charging the Modi government of muzzling dissent, the PM said a Congress leader had likened Rahul’s elevation to Aurangzeb replacing Shahjahan and the latter taking over from Jahangir as Mughal emperors. “And you talk of democracy!” he said.
He criticised Congress of spreading misinformation about India abroad and said its leaders were busy meeting Chinese diplomats when Indian and Chinese troops were facing off in Doklam. Seeking to turn the tables over Congress for its accusations that he had indulged in “jumlabaazi (empty rhetoric)”, Modi said the UPA had hidden the true extent of NPAs in public sector banks.
The PM said lies were being spread to create a sense of disappointment among the middle class about his government and accused Congress of being mired in “Chhoti Soch” (petty mindset)and being incapable of thinking big about the nation. He said if the staggering figure of NPAs had been revealed earlier, it would have hurt the economy but now he was doing so as banks were moving back into good health.
He said NPAs were actually 82% and not 36%. Modi said the total advance 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 and alleged that loans were given to those who were close to those in power.
After NDA assumed office, not a single loan was cleared which could turn into an NPA, Modi claimed, adding that a series of steps like recapitalisation of banks and a “cleanliness drive”, an apparent reference to measures against corruption and black-money, was to secure rights of the common man.
“Earlier calls used to be made for facilitating loans to their people (close to those in power). Crores of money was given (through loans),” he said.
Countering criticism that his government has not generated sufficient jobs, he said opposition-ruled states of West Bengal, Kerala, Odisha and Karnataka have said they have given employment to close to one crore people. How can the charge of joblessness be raised.
“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 not in power.
In the Rajya Sabha, he referred to Mahatma Gandhi’s wish that Congress be disbanded after Independence and said BJP is only following that path for a “Congress-Mukt Bharat”. “It’s not Modi’s idea, it was Gandhi’s idea. I also want India of Gandhi’s dream,” he said.
Taking recourse to statements made by late President R Venkataraman on Bofors, the PM pointed out that defence deals had emerged as the major source of political funding under Congress governments. He also quoted Congress MP Jairam Ramesh on party leaders continuing to behave as “sultans” despite the “Sultanate” having gone.
The references looked aimed at countering Congress’s allegations of graft in the Rafale deal and the PM detailed defence scandals from the era of the jeep scandal, submarine and howitzer scams.
He wondered how India’s progress in the ease of business rankings could be a reason to feel bad. Modi said, “Why should anyone feel bad if the country improves the ‘ease of doing business’? It is beyond comprehension.”
The PM countered leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad’s jibe that the government was repackaging old schemes and was a “name changer”, by saying. “You call us a name-changer, not game-changer. But I am an aim-chaser…We set targets and work hard to achieve them in a time-bound manner.”