Opinion: Unbecoming of PM to stoop so low in Parliament

Stung by the speech of Rahul Gandhi in the Lok Sabha, Prime Minister Modi lost all sense of proportion. He forgot that he was not addressing an election rally, but responding to debate in Parliament.

Venkat Parsa

Rahul Gandhi’s speech in the Lok Sabha on the Motion of Thanks on the Presidential Address to the joint sitting of Parliament, has had its desired impact. It provoked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to such an extent that he ranted for two successive days, in his reply to the Motion of Thanks, in both Houses of Parliament.

Prime Minister Modi forgot that he was speaking on the floor of Parliament, the Temple of Democracy. He forgot that he was not addressing an election rally, but responding to debate in Parliament. He forgot that he was elected to power on Election Manifesto, which contained tall promises and he has the obligation to report to Parliament on its implementation. He forgot that the Presidential Address to Parliament raised issues, which he had to put in perspective.

Stung by the speech of Rahul Gandhi in the Lok Sabha, Prime Minister Modi lost all sense of proportion. He launched a lowly attack on the Congress, which is the principal Opposition party in Parliament. He forgot that it was the duty of the Opposition to raise issues and it was the bounden responsibility of the Government to respond to the issues flagged by the principal Opposition party, on the floor of Parliament.

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There is a difference between political rally speech and Parliament debate. Modi stooped to a new low. Modi, perhaps, is the first Prime Minister of India to choose the floor of the House to forget the people’s issues and attack the principal Opposition party in Parliament.

What provoked Prime Minister Modi is the sense of helplessness at the issues raised by Rahul Gandhi. Neither the Modi Government has the answers to the questions raised by the Opposition, nor does it have a constructive agenda to set forth in Parliament.

Core Agenda

Apparently, the BJP has an unstated core agenda, like anti-conversion campaign, love jihad, mob lynching, uniform civil code, Ayodhya, Kashi, Mathura, etc al. and the saffron party is implementing them at breakneck speed. Ayodhya Temple construction has started. Kashi Corridor has wiped out of the public view the adjacent Mosque and in Mathura, the party has stepped into agitational mode, to press ahead with its agenda.

At the governance level, Modi Government has nothing worthwhile to report, given the unemployment at a 50-year high, economic slowdown, MSME facing shutdown, Muslims and Christians facing the brunt, youth disillusioned and women open to mounting atrocities.

Modi deliberately chose to skip the burning issues like the farmers’ agitation, migrant workers issue, attacks on Dalits, mob lynching of Muslims, brutal rape and murder of Dalits girls, price rise, unemployment staring youth in the face, economic slowdown and mishandling of Covid-19 pandemic.

The best way out for Prime Minister Modi is to target the Congress, from Jawaharlal Nehru to Rahul Gandhi, as there is little else to talk about.

Federal Arrangement

In fact, Rahul Gandhi quoted from Indian history to show how no central authority ruled over India, right from the days Mauryan Empire to Gupta Empire.

The point remains that historically, Indian political arrangement has remained federal in nature. It was managed through negotiations and agreements.

Rahul Gandhi also pointed out how, in sharp contrast, the incumbent Government betrayed dictatorial tendencies, which were neither in consonance with the Indian history nor in step with the Indian Constitution, for which his great-grandfather Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru moved the Aims and Objects Resolution in the Constituent Assembly.

Rahul Gandhi’s reference to India as the Union of States is something, which is the opening sentence of the Constitution. Article 1 of the Constitution says, “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.”

Was Prime Minister Modi objecting to the Constitution, when he accused Rahul Gandhi of fanning separatism?

The manner in which Jammu & Kashmir has been downgraded from State to Union Territory shows how Federalism is being played around with by the Modi dispensation.

Prime Minister Modi raised the issue of Telangana. Now it goes against him that he could not complete the Division of Assets between the two states, after being in office for over 8 years. He was unable to implement even the various provisions contained in the AP Reorganization Act, 2014, to date.

Secular Credentials

But for the Congress, India would not have been Secular. It was Secularism that made the world look up to India in awe and wonder, as to how the nation managed her diversity and pluralism.

During the Arab Spring and Tahrir Square Protests in Cairo in Egypt, India was viewed with marvel for her capacity to deal with diversity and pluralism, which was the result of the Congress values and vision.

Pak-China-US Axis

Rahul Gandhi voiced serious concern about overgrowing proximity between China and Pakistan. Now, there is an emerging threat of a broader US-Pak-China Axis, with the US strategically closer to Pakistan, than India. And Modi Government has put all its eggs in the US basket.

While Pakistan proximity to China is well-known, the Congress took care, from Jawaharlal Nehru to Indira Gandhi, to Rajiv Gandhi, to P V Narasimha Rao, to Dr Manmohan Singh, to improve ties with China, to neutralize it from openly backing Pakistan.

Prime Minister Modi’s hyped diplomacy in overdrive, from Wuhan to Mahabalipuram, ended up in Chinese brazen intrusions into Indian territory, at about the same time, when an overdrive of diplomacy with Pakistan, with Prime Minister Modi landing up uninvited at a wedding in the then Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief, resulted in a string of Pakistani attacks on India.

Against this backdrop, as Pakistan and China are moving closer, it was a serious situation for which the Modi Government has no credible response forthcoming. It was but natural for the preeminent leader of the principal Opposition party to raise the issue on the floor of Parliament.

The least Prime Minister Modi could have done was to direct External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar to make a statement on the issue in Parliament.

Prime Minister Modi deliberately chose to attack the Congress as a diversionary tactic to divert public attention from the burning issues facing the nation.

Congress Contribution

The contribution of Congress in transforming an ancient civilization into a modern nation is immeasurable.

If Congress was not there to provide stewardship to India after Independence, India would not have had democracy, as the rival opinion was that India needed dictatorship initially.

It now seems that without the Congress, India would have been a backwards-looking nation, with no scientific temper and scientific advancement. Nehru started a chain of regional research laboratories and number of scientific establishments.

Soon after Independence, Nehru tapped in on Homi J Bhabha and H N Sethna to start the nuclear and space programmes. Rajiv Gandhi’s emphasis on computerization resulted in laying the foundation of Digital India.

It was the Congress that integrated 550-odd Princely States with India, ensuring national unity and integrity under very stressful circumstances. Surviving the Partition holocaust, Nehru steered the nation on to the path of planned development. Starting out on Mixed Economy Model, sights were set on building Infrastructure, in a country where not even a pin was manufactured. 

India quickly took to Industrialization, with heavy industries, steel plants and power plants.

All major irrigation dams and modernization of agriculture, including the Green Revolution and White Revolution, took place during the Congress tenure in office.

Thanks to the Congress, India is among the fastest-growing economies of the world. With the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971, India emerged as a regional power in the world. When, during the Cold War, the world was vertically divided under NATO and Warsaw Pacts, the Non-Aligned Movement started by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in 1961, commanded the support of 120 nations. The UN-designated October 2, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, easily the greatest Indian of our times, as International Day of Non-Violence.

Prime Minister Modi’s dismal report card seems to compel him to resort to such gimmickry. This is unbecoming of someone holding such a high Constitutional post.

Venkat Parsa is a senior journalist and writer based in New Delhi.

Views expressed are personal

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