New Delhi: A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a scathing attack on the Congress during his hour-long Lok Sabha speech, the PM delivered yet another high-decibel offensive against the principal opposition party in Rajya Sabha Wednesday. Saying there was “a limit to arrogance”, Modi argued that by questioning the verdict of Lok Sabha polls, the party was only “insulting India’s democracy and its voters”.
“I was saddened to hear some leaders say that the BJP had won the elections but the country lost. How can we question the wisdom of our voters? Saying this is an insult to our democracy and voters. If Congress loses, does the country get defeated? Do they mean India is Congress and Congress is India? Did India lose in Wayanad? Did India lose in Rae Bareli? There is a limit to arrogance. Congress, a party that ruled the country for decades, could not win a single seat in 17 states,” the PM said, while replying to the motion of thanks on the President’s address in the upper house.
In the speech, that lasted a little over an hour, Modi touched upon a gamut of issues — from the Lok Sabha verdict to EVMs, electoral reforms, Aadhaar, the National Register of Citizens, his government’s welfare schemes, Jharkhand lynching incident as well as the Muzaffarpur deaths — but maintained a combative, almost election-like stance throughout his address.
On Tuesday, while replying to the motion of thanks in Lok Sabha, the PM had adopted a similar aggressive approach, taking multiple jibes at the Congress.
Warning opposition parties against questioning the verdict of 2019 Lok Sabha polls, in which the BJP won as many as 303 out of 543 seats, PM Modi said the mandate only showed “maturity of voters”.
“This election has been significant one. A government returning with a full majority, after decades, shows how the electorate has been thinking. Such a mandate helps the government by bringing forth stability,” he said.
In the run-up to 2019 polls, many BJP campaigns were centred around the idea of ‘stability’ and how a full majority government under the leadership of Modi can bring forth order — a strategy that seems to have worked for the party.
“The BJP-led NDA got a majority from all corners of the country — north, south, east and west,” he added.
The PM also took on opposition parties, primarily the Congress, for blaming their poor show on EVMs.
“Some people kept talking about EVMs. There was a time when we were reduced to just two seats in Parliament and were mocked at. We went through a bad phase but we had faith in our workers’ ideology and the voters. We worked hard to rebuild our party. We did not make excuses and blame polling booths or EVMs which has become a new trend,” Modi further said.
He was referring to the questions raised by the Congress and other opposition parties about the credibility of EVMs after receiving a drubbing in the elections.
“When you don’t have faith in yourself, you look for excuses. You are not ready for self-introspection and to accept your mistakes,” the PM added, before going on to talk about how voting percentage has gone up with the use of EVMs.
“In 2017, when the Election Commission had invited political parties for an EVM challenge only two parties had gone — the CPI and NCP. Around 113 state assembly polls have been conducted using EVMs and nearly all parties have got opportunities to govern,” he said.
Aware that his party was also part of the anti-EVM brigade at one point, Modi was quick to claim that the BJP has changed its stance after understanding the technology behind it.
“There was a time when we also started questioning EVMs. But we sincerely tried to understand technology and explained to those in the party who were against EVMs,” the PM said.
Former BJP president L K Advani was, in fact, at the forefront in raising doubts about EVMs being tamper-proof.
A ‘negative’ opposition
The PM lashed out at the Opposition for its “negativity” and unwillingness to discuss issues.
“I have noticed this since 2014. The Congress has been unable to accept defeat and it opposes everything. They are negative about anything we propose — right from technology, digital transactions, Aadhaar, GST, Bhim App. They make fun of our initiatives such as the Swachch Bharat Abhiyan, International Day of Yoga, Make in India, Jan Dhan Yojana and others. Such negativity is one of the chief reasons why some parties have not been able to win people’s trust,” the PM said.
With the BJP-led NDA unable to gain a majority in the Rajya Sabha, many of its pet bills were stalled during first five years of the Modi government.
“Voters today are very aware. They not only observe what is happening in Lok Sabha but also observe events in the Rajya Sabha. The people had voted keeping in mind workings of both houses. I know we do not have a majority in Rajya Sabha but that does not mean the public’s decision, which gave us such a huge mandate, should be strangled,” he said, adding the bills that lapsed following opposition in Rajya Sabha will have to be taken by Lok Sabha all over again.
“The Opposition is slamming the new India. Do they want old India back? Where cabinet decisions were torn in press meets, the Navy was used for personal trips and many numerous scams existed?” the PM questioned.
Modi also quoted an Urdu couplet to take a jibe at the Congress.
“Ta umr Ghalib ye bhool karta raha, dhool chehre pe thi aur aaina saaf karta raha (Ghalib kept making this mistake his entire life. There was dust was on his face but he kept wiping the mirror),” he said, amid loud cheers from his party MPs.
The PM also quoted what former President Pranab Mukherjee had said. “Mukherjee had said that majority has a mandate to rule, the minority to oppose but nobody has a mandate to obstruct. We should move forward with this mantra,” he said.
Reacting to the Jharkhand lynching incident, Modi said that it has “pained him”. But also argued that it was wrong to blame the entire state. He was referring to senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad’s statement in the House that Jharkhand had become a “den of mob lynching”.
“The youth’s killing has pained everyone, including me. The accused should be severely punished, but it is not fair to malign or blame the entire state. Those who do wrong should be isolated. By putting the entire state in the dock, we might play politics but won’t be able to improve the situation,” he said.
Taking on the Opposition for criticising the NRC updation process in Assam, Modi reminded how it was former PM Rajiv Gandhi’s government that had initiated the process in the 1985 Assam Accord.
“You (Congress) take credit for everything. Will you not take it for NRC? It was the Rajiv Gandhi government that accepted NRC in the Assam accord. The Supreme Court directed us to implement it and we are committed to doing so. It is not about vote bank politics,” Modi said.
BJP’s push for the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill while NRC is being updated has received much flak and is seen as the party’s way of pushing its majoritarian politics.
Bihar encephalitis deaths
The PM also spoke about the death of hundreds of children in Bihar due to acute encephalitis syndrome (AES).
“The deaths are unfortunate and matter of shame for us. We need to take this issue seriously. People should be made aware of vaccinations, safety and other health concerns. I am in constant touch with the state government and we will come out of this crisis soon,” he said.
The Sardar Patel taunt
Continuing with BJP’s tradition of taunting Congress for not honouring leaders who did not belong to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, PM Modi said India’s first home minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel had been ignored by the leader’s own party.
“If Patel had been the first prime minister, there would not have been any Kashmir issue. This is what we think. We may be wrong. But it cannot be denied that he united more than 500 provinces. Patel gave his life for the Congress. I was amazed to see that in Gujarat Patel could only be ‘seen’ on posters during elections. Otherwise, he is nowhere to be seen,” he said.
Talking about the ‘Statue of Unity’ in Gujarat — a 182 metre tall replica of Patel that was built by the BJP government – Modi said the Congress should hold a CWC meet there.