Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge recalled former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru's contribution to Indian democracy in the Rajya Sabha on September 18, saying his outlook was inclusive as he took the Opposition along and had laid the foundation of the Constitution.
Participating in a discussion on the "Parliamentary Journey of 75 Years Starting from Samvidhan Sabha — Achievements, Experiences, Memories and Learnings", Mr. Kharge hit out at the BJP-led government over the issues of unemployment in the country and ethnic violence in Manipur.
He asked the government what did it achieve by shifting the parliamentary proceedings to a new building.
"Badalna hai to halat badlo, aise naam badalne se kya hota hai. Dena hein to yuva ko rozgar do, sab ko berozgar karke kya hota hai. Dil ko thoda bada karke dekho, logon ko marne se kya hota hai. Kuch kar nahi sakte ho, kursi chor do, baat baat mein darane se kya hota hai.
"Apni hukumrani par guroor hai, logon ko darane se dhamkane se kya hota hai. Badalna hai to halat badlo, aise naam badalne se kya hota hai. Yahan se wahan jane mein kya aur honewala hai," the Congress leader said.
He slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi for not visiting violence-hit Manipur, not showing up in the House to listen to the Opposition's views and not giving speeches beyond the customary ones.
Mr. Kharge also expressed concern over the passage of several Bills in a manner faster than the "bullet train", without referring to parliamentary standing committees, while accusing the government of using the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to weaken the Opposition.
"He [Mr. Modi] goes to every corner of the country, but why does he not visit Manipur? He should visit Manipur and see the pain and sufferings of the people," the LoP said in the Upper House.
Ethnic violence has gripped Manipur since May 3, he said, adding that people in the State are getting killed and houses burnt. The Congress has sought a statement on this, Mr. Kharge said.
Stating that Nehru had a big heart as he took the Opposition along, the Congress chief said the first prime minister of independent India used to meet Opposition members to discuss key issues with them and take their views. He used to patiently listen to the debates in Parliament. In fact, he had inducted an Opposition party leader, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, in his Cabinet, Mr. Kharge pointed out.
"What happens today? No one listens to us... Now, he [Mr. Modi] does not enter the House," he said, adding that Nehru believed that if the Opposition was gaining in strength, there must be some flaw as far as governance is concerned.
However, "there is a strong Opposition now, but the ED and the CBI are being used to weaken them", he alleged.
Mr. Kharge recalled that Nehru had laid the foundation of the Constitution, based on which Parliament is functioning.
"That was a time when everyone was taken along... The foundation stones are not visible now, but the names on the plank are seen," he said and highlighted the efforts of B.R. Ambedkar, the chief architect of the Constitution.
It was during the Congress regime that efforts were made to strengthen democracy and keep the Constitution alive, Mr. Kharge said while lamenting that "we are now fighting to protect the Constitution".
Several Bills were passed in the old Parliament building in the last 75 years, as a result of which the country has changed, the Congress chief said. "We are cooperating, but at times, there are altercations," he added.
Complaining about the Prime Minister not showing up enough in the Upper House to listen to the views of the Opposition, Mr. Kharge said, "Everyone is watching what is happening today. The Prime Minister comes to Parliament occasionally. When he comes, he makes it an event and goes away."
Responding to Mr. Kharge's charge, Leader of the House Piyush Goyal said the Congress members walk out whenever the Prime Minister is in the House.
Mr. Kharge also criticised Mr. Modi for giving speeches outside but not in Parliament.
He said former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee gave 21 speeches in the House during his term, while Manmohan Singh gave about 30 speeches. "The current Prime Minister spoke only twice, leaving aside the customary speeches, in the last nine years." he added.
Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar said customary speeches are also important. "I thought Mr. Kharge would have a complaint that why does the Prime Minister speak so much," he said, adding that the Rajya Sabha Secretariat will have to check this and shall inform the LoP in the next three days.
Mr. Kharge said, "Outside, he [Mr. Modi] speaks a lot. So much he speaks that we cannot digest it."
Congress urges govt to table Women's Reservation Bill
The Congress leader urged the government to table the Women's Reservation Bill in Parliament and highlighted the issue of unemployment, saying rising joblessness will finish democracy in the country.
Mr. Kharge highlighted the small number of women lawmakers in Parliament, saying they accounted for only 14% of the members in both Houses, while their percentage in the Legislative Assemblies is just 10.
The proportion of women MPs was just 5% in the first Lok Sabha in 1952.
Mr. Kharge told the House that the proportion of women members has risen to 28% from 2% in the U.S. Parliament while in Britain, it has jumped to 33% from 3%.
He also mentioned that Opposition leaders are not shown on Rajya Sabha TV during the House proceedings and requested the Chair to set this right.