He rebutted criticism that he had attempted to corner credit for India’s development and belittled his predecessors.
New Delhi: Lambasting the Congress for the Gandhi-Nehru family’s hegemony, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday attacked the main Opposition party by claiming that it cannot see beyond the “first family”, and had flown so high on ambition and power that it lost connect with the nation’s roots. He rebutted criticism that he had attempted to corner credit for India’s development and belittled his predecessors.
In his hour-long reply to the Motion of Thanks on the President’s address in Lok Sabha, Mr Modi said that the Congress did not even recognise the contributions of leaders outside its ruling family, pointing out that the Congress leaders never once mentioned the contributions of former Prime Ministers P.V. Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh in their speeches in the lower house.
He even blamed the Congress for “crushing India’s soul” by imposing the Emergency, which incidentally was imposed on June 25 in 1975, whose anniversary fell on Tuesday. He said, “The Emergency is a blot on the democracy that will never fade.”
During the Emergency, Mr Modi alleged that the then Congress-led government had trampled over the spirit of the Constitution, gagged the media and bullied the judiciary.
“We can’t forget those dark days,” he said, attacking the Congress.
Responding to Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury’s dare to jail Rahul and Sonia Gandhi, if the two were guilty of alleged wrongdoings, Mr Modi said, “We are being taunted for not putting ‘them’ in jail. We are not in Emergency, we follow rule of law. These decisions are taken by courts. Courts will decide on jail and bail.”
“You must enjoy while you are out of jail,” he said while referring to a court granting bail to the two top Congress leaders in the National herald case.
The Motion of Thanks was later passed by voice vote.
In a rare gesture, Mr Modi praised the first Prime Minister of the country Jawaharlal Nehru, describing him as a visionary, and claimed that unlike Congress, which doesn’t recognise the good work of its own former prime ministers, he himself had from the ramparts of Red Fort acknowledged contributions of all Prime Ministers and other prominent leaders in the country’s development.
He said his government gave Bharat Ratna to a veteran Congress leader like former President Pranab Mukherjee but the Opposition party could not think about bestowing the same honour to former Prime Ministers and its leaders like P.V. Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh.
Mr Modi said he doesn’t like making this point but was forced by Congress leaders who repeatedly accuse him of cornering credit. “Thus far and no further,” he said breaking into English, warning the Congress to stop this campaign.
Did the Congress government during 2004-14 ever recognise the work of the Vajpayee government, he asked and added that it did not acknowledge even the Rao government’s contributions.
Determined to give a point by point reply to Congress leader Choudhury’s speech which he gave while participating in the discussion on the Motion of Thanks on Monday, Mr Modi quoted a former minister in the Rajiv Gandhi-led Congress government, which brought a law to overrule the Supreme Court ruling on the Shah Bano case to placate Muslims, as saying recently that its leaders claimed that it was not the duty of their party to uplift Muslims and “if they want to lie in gutter let them be”.
His remarks drew sharp protests from the Congress, prompting Mr Modi to say that he will send them a YouTube link of the interview.
The Congress has missed many chances to empower Muslim women and has got one more opportunity, he said, in a reference to the triple talaq bill introduced in Lok Sabha by his government.
Referring to Mr Chowdhury’s comments that Mr Modi cannot diminish the Congress’ “high” stature, the Prime Minister said it became so high that it lost connect with the country’s roots and that “the higher you become, the happier I will be”.
“So busy were they with delusions of soaring high that they forgot to remain rooted to the ground. So busy were they soaring that they thought anyone on the ground is lowly and dirty. We have no such desire to soar. We are happy grounded, rooted and with our people,” he said.
Mr Modi also called upon lawmakers to rise above partisan politics to build a new and modern India, saying the country was more important than politics.
“We want to take New India to new heights…We want a strong, safe and inclusive India. Together we can deal with all challenges that come our way,” he said.
Focussing on his pro-development agenda, Mr Modi said that the BJP-led NDA’s win in the recent Lok Sabha polls with a bigger mandate than the 2014 elections showed that people had approved of its work.
“We did not divert from our development path, we did not dilute our development agenda. It is important that the country progresses, every Indian is empowered and our nation has modern infrastructure. We believe in public welfare and modern infrastructure,” he said.
In 2014, people voted for his party as they wanted to give him a chance also to get rid of the Congress-led UPA but they backed his government this time due to its work, the Prime Minister added.
With his pet project Make in India often questioned by critics for its output, the Prime Minister said it is the need of the hour.
India had 18 ordnance factories when it became independent but it now depends on import for its defence needs while China which had “zero” in 1947, is exporting military equipments and arsenal, the Prime Minister said.
“Let it be our collective endeavour to make India a $5 trillion economy,” he said.
Mr Modi said his government had taken a number of important decisions since coming to power last month for a second term.
“The decisions we have taken will benefit farmers, traders, youngsters and other sections of society,” he said.
Invoking the upcoming 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, whom he described as the country’s greatest inspiration, and the following 75th anniversary of India’s freedom in 2022, he asked lawmakers to rise above politics and party lines to build a new and modern India.
He also stressed on the need to conserve water, and referred to socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia’s stress on ensuring “pani and paikhana” (water and toilet) for the poor, especially women.
His government had worked to build toilets and will now focus on water, he said.