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Manmohan Singh Castigates Modi for “Lowering the Dignity” of PMO

Manmohan Singh Castigates Modi for “Lowering the Dignity” of PMO

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, May 30: As the Prime Minister Narendra Modi started preparing for launching his 45-hour meditation at the conclusion of the election campaign on Thursday evening at the famed mid-sea Vivekananda Rock Memorial off Kanniyakumari, his predecessor Manmohan Singh hit out at him for “lowering the dignity” of the Prime Minister’s office with “hate speeches which are purely divisive in nature.”

“I have been keenly following the political discourse during this election campaign. Modi ji has indulged in the most vicious form of hate speeches, which are purely divisive in nature,” Dr Singh said on Thursday in a three-page letter to the voters in Punjab and other parts of the country going to poll in the seventh and last phase of the Lok Sabha elections on Saturday.

Denying that he ever singled out a community for special treatment, Dr Singh said, “Modi ji is the first Prime Minister to lower the dignity of public discourse, and thereby the gravity of the office of the Prime Minister. No Prime Minister in the past has uttered such hateful, unparliamentary and coarse terms, meant to target either a specific section of the society or the opposition. He has also attributed some false statements to me. I have never in my life singled out one community from the other. That is the sole copyright of the BJP,” he added.

Mr Modi, who had kicked off the BJP’s election campaign from Kanniyakumari in Tamil Nadu on March 16, is all set to embark on a 45-hour meditation exercise at the Vivekananda Rock Memorial. However, this is not the first time the Prime Minister has taken up a meditation retreat. Mr Modi had undertaken a similar exercise in a Kedarnath cave, after the 2019 poll campaign. Dressed in a grey traditional pahari attire, Mr Modi offered prayers for about 30 minutes and undertook a circumambulation of the Kedarnath shrine situated at the height of 11,755 feet near the Mandakini river. The Prime Minister then went inside a cave near the shrine. Draped in a saffron shawl, Mr Modi was seen meditating at the holy cave.

Mr Modi spent around 17 hours at the holy cave near the shrine, which is now designated as a ‘meditation camp’, known as the “Rudra Cave,” and is managed by the Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN), an Uttarakhand State Government enterprise.

Dr Singh didn’t mention the remark about the community in his letter. However, Mr Modi at a public meeting in Rajasthan had claimed that Dr Singh said (in 2006) “Muslims had the first claim on the country’s resources.”

In his election rally in Rajasthan in April, Mr Modi had made a series of controversial statements. He had referred to Muslims in India as “those who have a large number of children” and claimed that former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said (in 2006) “Muslims had the first claim on the country’s resources”. He alleged that the 2024 Congress manifesto proposed to distribute people’s wealth among Muslims if the party is elected to power. He made this claim by combining sections in the manifesto, which addresses wealth inequality, and connecting those points to the former Prime Minister’s speech in 2006.

A fact-check using government data showed that the gap between the fertility rate of Muslims and that of other religions was narrowing. The fertility rate of Muslims along with the fertility rates of all other religious groups have been drastically declining over the years. As per 2019-21 data, the fertility rate of Muslims was 2.36, much closer to the replacement level. Also, the gap between the fertility levels of Hindu and Muslim women has sharply reduced from 0.81 to 0.42 in the two decades. This trend holds true even among the most populous States.

Excerpts from a government press release dated December 6, 2006, quoted Dr Singh saying, “I believe our collective priorities are clear. Agriculture, irrigation and water resources, health, education…along with programmes for the upliftment of SC/STs, other backward classes, minorities and women and children…We will have to devise innovative plans to ensure that minorities, particularly the Muslim minority, are empowered to share equitably in the fruits of development. They must have the first claim on resources…” While Dr Singh’s statement was aimed at all vulnerable sections of society, his emphasis on Muslims was singled out by Mr Modi.

Dr Singh’s worry about all vulnerable sections, especially Muslims, was backed by data that showed that Muslims lagged behind other religious groups on several indicators. Across sexes, the share of Muslims who did not go to school was much higher than other religious groups in 2005-06. While a higher share of Muslims continued not to go to school even in 2019-21, the gap narrowed. Similarly, the share of Muslims who completed 12 years of schooling was the lowest among all the religious groups in 2005-06 and continued to be so in 2019-21.

Pointing out that in the past ten years, the BJP government has left no stone unturned in castigating “Punjab, Punjabis and Punjabiyat”, Dr Singh said that 750 farmers, mostly belonging to Punjab, were martyred while incessantly waiting at Delhi borders (during protests against now repealed farm laws), for months together. “As if the lathis and the rubber bullets were not enough, none less than the Prime Minister verbally assaulted our farmers by calling them ‘Andolanjeevis’ and ‘Parjeevi’ (Parasites) on the floor of the Parliament. Their only demand was the withdrawal of the three farm laws imposed on them without consulting them.” he said, adding that the BJP policies have eroded the earnings of farmers.

“Modiji had promised to double the income of our farmers by 2022 (but) his policies in the past 10 years have eroded the earnings… the national average monthly income of farmers is a meagre ₹ 27 per day, while average debt per farmer is ₹ 27,000 (from government data),” Dr Singh said. The former PM then highlighted the UPA government’s loan waivers “worth ₹ 72,000 crore to 3.73 crore farmers” and said it had “increased MSP (minimum support price, at the heart of renewed farmers protest against the BJP government), and increased production, while encouraging exports.”

Pointing out that Saturday’s final phase of polling the voters would have a “final chance to ensure our democracy and Constitution are protected from repeated assaults by a despotic regime,” Dr Singh, a noted economist, said the nation’s economy had witnessed unimaginable turmoil during BJP’s regime. “The imposition of the demonetisation disaster, a flawed GST, and the painful mismanagement during the COVID pandemic has resulted in a miserable situation…Unprecedented unemployment and unbridled inflation have greatly widened inequality, which is now at a 100-year high…the misrule of the BJP government has resulted in the depletion of household savings to a historic 47-year low… There are 30 lakh government vacancies,” he said.

“Average GDP growth under BJP government has plunged to under six per cent… during Congress-UPA tenure it was about eight per cent (New Series). According to World Bank data GDP growth under the UPA government touched a high of 8.5 per cent in 2010, and hit a low of 3.1 per cent in 2008 (during the global financial crisis). In the 10 years since it has reached a high of 9.1 per cent (in 2021) and plummeted to -5.8 during the pandemic.

He added that the BJP government imposed an ill-conceived Agniveer Scheme on our Armed Forces. “The BJP thinks that the value of patriotism, bravery and service is only 4 years. This shows their fake nationalism. Those who trained for regular recruitment were woefully betrayed by the outgoing regime. The youth of Punjab, the son of the farmer, who dreams of serving the motherland through the Armed Forces, is now thinking twice about getting recruited only for a 4-year stint. Agniveer Scheme endangers National Security. Congress party has therefore promised to abolish the Agniveer Scheme,” he said.

The veteran Congress leader reminded the border state and its inhabitants of their warrior spirit, and said their “indomitable courage and innate belief in the democratic ethos of inclusiveness, harmony, and brotherhood” was needed, at this point in history, to “protect our great nation.” “Punjab and Punjabis are warriors. We are known for our spirit of sacrifice,” he said, lamenting the BJP government for having left “no stone unturned in castigating Punjab, Punjabis, and punjabiyat.



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