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Modi Attacks Opposition amidst Uproar in the House

Modi Attacks Opposition amidst Uproar in the House

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, July 2: For the first time, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday tasted the opposition fury with being back in strength in the 18th Lok Sabha, the INDIA bloc kept disrupting his speech by chanting slogans with rising tempo as he rose to give reply to the debate on the motion of thanks to the President for her address to the joint session of Parliament.

In the last two stints of the BJP governments, the stunted opposition could do little to check the ruling party’s rolling juggernaut but in the last elections the opposition has not only returned with near-matching numbers, it was also for the first time that the fragmented opposition has united in the INDIA bloc with none of the parties supporting the ruling NDA alliance unlike in the two previous Houses.

Determined to make themselves heard, the opposition chose to do it on Tuesday when Mr Modi rose to reply to the debate on the motion of thanks, speaking for the first time in the new House except when he introduced his council of ministers before the President’s address. The result was a furious din that came close to the BJP protests of 2004, which stopped then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh from introducing his Council of Ministers. Mr Modi, though, laboured on through the uproar for over two hours, once it became clear that the Opposition would not relent.

The ostensible reason for the Opposition protests was that the PM’s speech came as a representative from Manipur was abruptly cut off. The Opposition has always maintained that the Prime Minister had neglected the violence-hit state, not just failing to visit but also remaining silent on it.

As a few MPs started protests to Speaker Om Birla’s refusal to allow the Manipur MP to speak, the matter was taken up by the rest of the Opposition members. Soon, the Lok Sabha chamber rang with boos and slogans.

Before the prime minister’s reply, opposition members wanted Speaker Om Birla to allow the MPs from Manipur to speak in the House but he said a member from the north-eastern state had already spoken on Monday. They then trooped into the Well of the House, drawing a sharp rebuke from Mr Birla.

When the Prime Minister started speaking, the MPs stepped it up with louder slogans and table thumping. Chants of “Manipur, Manipur”, “Tanashahi nahin chalegi (We won’t allow dictatorship)” and “Justice for Manipur” rang out, drawing angry reprimand from the Speaker, directed at the Leader of the Opposition.

“I can understand the pain of some people. Even after spreading lies, they tasted defeat,” the Prime Minister finally said after waiting several times for the noise to subside. Mr Modi said the people have given his government a mandate for stability and continuity for the third consecutive term after testing it on every criterion.

He said the people saw the dedication with which his government served them for 10 years. “In our third term, we will work with triple the speed. Our third term means we will put in thrice the strength. In our third term, we will ensure three times the results,” Mr Modi said in the Lok Sabha, amid vociferous protests by the Opposition.

He said the mandate for the BJP’s rivals was to sit in the Opposition and keep shouting after running out of arguments. “Try to understand the mandate of the people honestly and accept it. I would urge the Congress to accept the mandate and not hide behind fake victory celebrations,” he said.

The prime minister said, “The people of the country have given us this mandate after testing us on every criterion. The people have seen our track record of 10 years.” “The people have seen that we have worked with dedication for the welfare of the poor, fulfilling the mantra of ‘public service is God’s service’,” he said.

The prime minister said he can understand the pain of some, who despite spreading lies and misleading the people, had to face a massive defeat in the Lok Sabha elections. “People have chosen us in this biggest election exercise. I can understand the pain of some people that despite running falsehoods, they were comprehensively defeated,” he said amidst opposition chants. Mr Modi said this was the first time in the history of the Congress that for three consecutive times it has not been able to cross 100 seats.

“This is the third biggest defeat for the Congress. It would have been good if the Congress would have accepted its defeat and done some introspection. But it is busy in doing ‘sirsasan’ (headstand). The Congress and its system is trying to inculcate in people’s minds that they have defeated us,” he said.

“When we had won in 2014, we had said our slogan was zero tolerance towards corruption. I am proud that the common people, who were reeling under corruption and the country had been hollowed out before 2014, have blessed us for our zero tolerance for corruption,” Modi said.

The prime minister said India’s prestige has increased and the country was being looked up to by the world. “The country has seen that our primary objective is ‘nation first’. Every step and action of ours has been guided by ‘nation first’. With this in mind, we have continued reforms. We do not believe in ‘tushtikaran’ (appeasement) but ‘santushtikaran’ (saturation),” he said. He said the policy of appeasement had harmed the country.

“People have supported us after seeing our work in the last 10 years and given us the opportunity to serve the 140 crore people (of the country). This election has shown the maturity of the people of this country,” he said. Mr Modi said before 2014, people had lost self-confidence. “When there is a lack of confidence, it becomes difficult for the person and the country to stand up. The common people used to say this country cannot achieve anything. Only news of scams prevailed,” the prime minister said.

When the Prime Minister started speaking, the MPs stepped it up with louder slogans and table thumping. Chants of “Manipur, Manipur”, “Tanashahi nahin chalegi (We won’t allow dictatorship)” and “Justice for Manipur” rang out, drawing angry reprimand from the Speaker, directed at the Leader of the Opposition.

In the expected hard-hitting political message, the Prime Minister also spoke of minority appeasement, alleged corruption during the UPA government, Jammu and Kashmir, Article 370 and surgical strikes against terrorists — all amid the loud Opposition protests. The contrast to Congress’s Rahul Gandhi’s fiery speech yesterday — replete with repeated objections and angry outbursts from the Prime Minister and his ministers — could not be sharper.

As PM Modi continued, the volume of protests increased. Admonishing the Opposition, Mr Birla said, “Yesterday, I allowed you to speak for 90 minutes. No one stopped you. This is no way to behave,” he said. Then, as an afterthought added, “Paanch saal aise nahin chalega (We cannot have five years of this)”.

This was not the first time Opposition protests had interrupted a Prime Minister in the House in this fashion. In 2004, then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh could not introduce his Council of Ministers due to protests by the BJP. In 2008, he was not allowed to reply to the debate on no-confidence motion against his government.

PM Modi, speaking amid the deafening commotion today, soon started responding with barbs and mockery. “Try to read the people’s mandate. You are in the Opposition and you will remain in the Opposition… 2024 onwards, the Congress will be known as the ‘Parasite Congress’. They feed on the votes of other parties. They make alliances with them and cut their votes,” he said.

Then he parodied the Bollywood blockbuster Sholay — the sequence where Amitabh Bachchan was ‘advocating’ for his friend to a prospective mother-in-law.

Without mentioning Rahul Gandhi by name, PM Modi referred to him as “balakbuddhi (the immature one)”, saying he “does not know his limits” and cited the incident when he was caught on camera in parliament winking, thought to be at the then close aide Jyotiraditya Scindia.

“The country is now feeling sorry that he is here… the country observed ‘khatakhat diwas’ on July 1. People were checking if they received ₹ 8500 in their bank accounts,” PM Modi added, accusing the Congress of being habitual liars.

Mr Modi again repeated his accusations against Rahul Gandhi of telling lies and making harsh comments against Hindus and said, “Today, there is a conspiracy to falsely accuse Hindus, a serious conspiracy is unfolding.”

“These are people who tried to coin the term ‘Hindu terrorism’. Their associates compared Hinduism to diseases like dengue and malaria. This country will never forgive them. Under a well-thought-out conspiracy, their entire ecosystem has made it fashionable to degrade, insult, and mock Hindu traditions,” he added.

Then, targetting Mr Gandhi, he added, “This is your culture, this is your character, this is your thinking, this is your hatred. These are the actions against Hindus in this country. This country will not forget it for centuries,” PM Modi said.

In his first speech in parliament as the Leader of the Opposition yesterday, Rahul Gandhi had come armed with photos of various gods including Lord Shiva and prophets from other religions, and used them to launch a sharp attack on PM Modi, the BJP and its ideological mentor, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, accusing them of spreading fear.




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