Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday accused the Opposition Congress of harbouring “an inferiority complex” that made it disrupt Parliament, even as he sought the help of all Opposition parties in clearing important legislation.
Speaking in response to a debate on the Motion of Thanks to the President’s address to Parliament, Mr. Modi invoked former Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi to buttress his point, but left out any mention of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula’s suicide and the sedition case against students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University.
"People just want to oppose for the sake of it"
“Some people don’t understand, but just want to oppose for the sake of it. There are such bright MPs in the Opposition [other than in the Congress], but they are not allowed to speak. Nobody in the Opposition must look stronger and this is the inferiority complex,” he said, in an oblique reference to the top Congress leadership and making a distinction between it and the rest of the Opposition.
“This government needs improvement which cannot happen without your help. I am new, you are experienced. I need the benefit of your experience. Governments will come and go. Let us work shoulder to shoulder,” the Prime Minister said.
Without naming Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, Mr. Modi appeared to be responding to his speech on Wednesday that the Prime Minister should listen to others. “It is easy to preach to others. There are some people to whom all kinds of questions are asked. But there are some others to whom nobody dares ask questions,” he said.
He recalled how the Congress vice-president had torn up the copy of an ordinance approved by the Cabinet headed by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and including veterans like A.K. Antony, Sharad Pawar and Farooq Abdullah in September 2013. “It was a shameful day in the history of the country when elders were disrespected,” he said.
"Have learnt to live with criticism and accusations"
“I have been questioned, I have faced criticism and accusations over the last 14 years. I have learnt to live with it,” said Mr. Modi, referring to the attacks on him in the aftermath of the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Talking about attempts to “halt” the development of the country by the Opposition, he cited a statement made by Indira Gandhi in 1974 in which she had wondered why some people tried to portray the image of the country in such a manner as if India was standing with a begging bowl.
Invoking Rajiv Gandhi over disruptions, Mr. Modi read out a statement made by the former in which he had expressed “pain” over the stalling of Parliament and said that while it hurt the government, it equally hurt the members of the Opposition who wanted to raise issues of their concern.
He listed legislation pending before the House, including the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill aimed at overhauling the taxation system, telling the Congress that since much of what had been done in the past was being claimed by the Congress, this too should be claimed and cleared. “It [the GST Bill] is yours only, still it is being stopped,” he said.
The Prime Minister elaborated on what he termed the Congress’s habit of claiming ownership of every development work done by any government in India. Referring to the construction of toilets, in every school, or even settling the India-Bangladesh boundary agreement, Mr. Modi said the Congress “could claim credit, since if they had done the job, he would not have had to do it.”
Responding to the Congress’s contention that the MGNREGA was the baby of the previous UPA government and that the NDA regime had repackaged and usurped it, Mr. Modi said such a programme had first been initiated in Maharashtra in 1972. “The programme exists because the previous government had sunk the roots of poverty so deep in the ground, even deeper than I previously thought,” he said.
While the Prime Minister ended his speech asking for cooperation from MPs and parties to run the House, this pugnacious turn, after a more than combative speech by Mr. Rahul Gandhi the previous day, has hardened battle lines.