New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi Thursday made as many as 24 references to Jawaharlal Nehru in Parliament in his two speeches that largely focused on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The first prime minister’s name was invoked 23 times in the Lok Sabha and once in the Rajya Sabha.
In his two House speeches, Modi also invoked B.R. Ambedkar twice, Ram Manohar Lohia twice and Lal Bahadur Shastri seven times to justify the CAA.
He also addressed the opposition as he called the protests “road to anarchy” in his reply to the Motion of Thanks on the President’s address.
Invoking past leaders to defend Citizenship Act
In the Lok Sabha, PM Modi invoked Nehru 23 times as he justified the Citizenship Act. “Such a big secular person like Nehru, such a great thinker, such a big visionary; and everything to you, why did he not use then all citizens instead of minorities there?” Modi asked as he referred to the 1950 pact that was signed between Nehru and then Pakistan PM Liaquat Ali Khan.
He referenced Nehru along with Lal Bahadur Shastri, BR Ambedkar and Ram Manohar Lohia as he read out an extract from a 1947 resolution of the Congress Working Committee in the speech that lasted for about 1 hour 40 minutes.
He also invoked the first PM’s name as he read out an extract from a 1947 resolution of the Congress Working Committee and Nehru’s 1950 Parliament speech.
“Was Pandit Nehru communal. I want to know? Did he discriminate between Hindus and Muslims? Did he want a Hindu Rashtra?” Modi said.
In the Upper House, Nehru’s name was mentioned once as he quoted from Shastri’s speech about Hindus in Pakistan. The Prime Minister also referenced BR Ambedkar as he said, “Post Independence, most of the Hindus that stayed back were Dalits. B.R. Ambedkar had said: ‘I would like to tell the SCs who happen to, today, be impounded in Pakistan to come over to India.’ All these quotes come from nation-builders of India. Were all of them communal?”
The 23 times Modi invoked Nehru in Lok Sabha
PM Modi first mentioned Nehru’s name in the context of the Nehru-Liaquat pact of 1950. Explaining that the agreement was made on the condition that there should not be discriminatory treatment of religious minorities in Pakistan, PM Modi said, “Congress has to answer now, such a big secular like Nehru, a big thinker and big visionary; at the time why did he use ‘all citizens’ instead of the word minority. If he was so great if he was so kind, then why didn’t he bother.”
Modi then justified the Citizenship Act and said, “What we are saying today, the same thing was told by Nehru at that time. Why did Nehruji use the word minority, you will not say it because you are suffering. But Nehru himself has answered it.”
Next, he mentioned Nehru’s letter to Gopinath Bordoloi, the then chief minister of Assam, in which he justified the distinction between Hindu refugees and Muslim immigrants and said India should take care of refugees.
Modi then called to attention Nehru’s Parliament speech from 1950, a few months after the Nehru-Liaquat pact. “Nehruji said there is no doubt that the affected people who have come to settle in India, have the right to be citizens and if there are no legal provisions to make this possible then changes have to be made,” he said.
Modi, thereafter, went on to recall the 1963 Lok Sabha proceedings in which Nehru, who was the then Foreign Minister, had supposedly interrupted then Minister of State for External Affairs Dinesh Singh and said the authority of East Pakistan put tremendous pressure on Hindus. “This was Panditji’s statement. Not just Gandhi, Nehru was also looking at Pakistan’s situation. There are many documents, letters, standings committee reports, all have been advocating similar legislation.”
Launching an attack against the Congress, Modi then asked, “From everything that I have told you, was Nehru also communal? I want to know. Did he differentiate between Hindus and Muslims? Nehru wanted to make a Hindu Rashtra?”
No mention of NRC
PM Modi’s speech comes at a time when protests continue to rage against the Citizenship Act. “Whatever is being said about the CAA… every colleague should introspect and ask themselves. Should we all stop attempts to misinform and misguide the country? Is it not our responsibility or not? Should we be part of such campaigns?” Modi said as he launched an attack on the Congress.
As pointed out by The Indian Express, Modi’s either speech did not mention the National Register of Citizens (NRC), which has been the other point of contention with the critics of the CAA. In the Rajya Sabha later, however, he detailed the National Population Register (NPR) process and said it was a routine administrative matter.
“But when vote bank politics create compulsions…those who had brought NPR in 2010 now end up spreading confusion in the minds of the people, are opposing it..” he said.