BJP on Thursday defended Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dig at Manmohan Singh saying “fun, pun and repartee” are part of parliamentary debate, and suggested that Congress was using Singh as a “useful, expendable” outsider as it had done with many top leaders outside the Gandhi family.
It fielded Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to launch a sharp attack on Congress, especially its top leaders Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, saying it is no longer a conventional political party representing certain ideology but a “conglomeration believing in divinity and devotion to a family”.
There was nothing wrong in Modi’s barb in the Rajya Sabha that Singh knew the art of taking bath wearing raincoat as he remained untainted despite all the scams in his government, Prasad said, noting that the former Prime Minister had called demonetisation “organised loot and legalised plunder”.
Prasad alleged that Singh was likely to have read from the note written by some other Congress leaders as such strong expressions are alien to his vocabulary.
“Now the Prime Minister is responding to it. Why are they (Congress) so troubled with this? Fun, pun, repartee and exchange of mild or strong words are a part of parliamentary convention.
“Congress has two set of leaders. Ones who come from the family are beyond criticism. They cannot make a mistake. Second set of leaders are those who are used for political convenience and then discarded. Manmohan Singh also has his utility... Those outside the family are useful, expendable entities,” he said.
Prasad cited former prime ministers like Lal Bahadur Shastri, Charan Singh, VP Singh, Chandra Shekhar, PV Narasimha Rao and IK Gujral, all of whom were Congress leaders or served in the party for some time, besides likes of Bhimrao Ambedkar and Maulana Azad, to argue that they were all treated harshly by it after their utility was served.
“Manmohan Singh will be there as long as his utility remains... The so called credibility of Singh was abused by the dynasty to promote corruption and rank cronyism,” he said.
Congress leaders compared Modi with “abhorrent” rulers and showered abuses on him, he said and referred to remarks like ‘Maut ke saudagar’, made by Sonia Gandhi when Modi was Gujarat Chief Minister, and ‘khoon ki dalali’, Rahul Gandhi’s barb at Modi following surgical strikes.
Claiming that Modi set an “example in humility” by noting contributions of former prime ministers in his August 15 speech from the Red Fort, Prasad said he showed his “big heart” by never launching a witch-hunt despite the “conspiracies” hatched against him when he was Gujarat chief minister.
Prasad said that Singh despite being the then Prime Minister could not save his “guru” PV Narasimha Rao from insult even in his death as the Gandhi family did not allow his body to be taken inside the Congress headquarters.
“He has his own utility. I feel pity for him... This is his tragedy,” he told a press conference.
The Rao government accorded Bharat Ratna to Sardar Patel and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad in 1991 and 1992. “Was this the reason for the manner in which they treated Rao?” he asked.
It was Rao who politically empowered Singh, who served as Finance Minister under him, to go for major reforms.
While Congress accuses Modi of criticising it on foreign soil, it was Rahul Gandhi who trashed an ordinance approved by the Singh government when the Prime Minister was in the USA on an official visit, he said.
Prasad listed out several alleged scams that happened under the UPA government to target Singh, saying he maintained silence then and was using terms like “organised loot and legalised plunder” to attack demonetisation.
Asked if his government would probe Singh’s involvement, he noted that probe in several cases had begun before the NDA came to power and asserted that “we are not into witch-hunt” and law would take its own course.
He also noted that several little known people who worked for the society were given Padma awards by this government.