Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday launched a no-holds-barred attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, accusing him of going soft on hoarders of black money and making repeated U-turns on his Pakistan policy.
Gandhi said Modi did not consult even his own ministers before deciding on matters of national importance, citing the Naga accord and the impromptu Christmas detour to have tea at Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif’s farmhouse.
Maintaining that the PM could not run the country on his whims through a centralised style of functioning, Gandhi said, “The country is not the PM and he is not the country.”
Punctuating his 35-minute speech with barbs targeting the PM rather than the government, Gandhi played on the perception that Modi single-handedly decided on important matters. And, he went on to question the PM on all of them — Modi’s silence on the debate on free speech, especially the attack on journalists and teachers in a Delhi court, the Naga pact, and also the ambitious Make in India campaign that promised to be a job-spinner.
Gandhi first picked on the one-time compliance window for black money holders announced in the budget, describing it as a “fair and lovely” scheme — a reference to a popular skin-whitening cream.
“Nobody who has black money will be jailed under Modi’s Fair and Lovely scheme. All those who have black money can make it white under this scheme,” he said.
Gandhi did fumble in between but recovered quickly to deliver another punch.
“Yes, I do make mistakes. I am not from the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, the BJP’s ideological mentor),” said the Congress leader, who last year came up with the “suit-boot ki sarkar” jab, accusing the Modi government of being pro-industry and anti-poor.
Modi is slated to respond on Thursday to the discussion on the motion of thanks to the President’s address to Parliament.
The BJP’s front-line ministers were not in the House when a clean-shaven Gandhi dressed in his trademark white kurta spoke. Ruling party MPs who were present did not disturb and, at times, some even seemed to enjoy the speech.
Gandhi used the PM’s Christmas stopover in Pakistan to target Modi and the BJP’s concept of nationalism. “In one move, he personally let Pakistan out of the little cage into which we had put them... When he stopped over in Pakistan without talking to the professionals in our government, the Prime Minister disrespected our flag,” he said.
Questioning the BJP’s version of nationalism, the Congress leader asked the PM to listen to what the country was trying to tell him. “You cannot defend the Indian flag by destroying the relationships between Indians,” he said.
The Congress leader accused Modi of not consulting his ministerial colleagues, the army and others on critical issues such as his Pakistan visit or the Naga accord.
“I do not think he (Modi) even discussed with external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj his visit to Pakistan and took a detour to Pakistan for having a tea with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.”
Gandhi attacked Modi for seeking credit for what was described as the historic Naga accord and alleged that not only the Northeast chief ministers but even home minister Rajnath Singh was caught unawares.
“Nobody had an idea what Modi had signed. Where is Naga accord now? It’s gone with the wind. Bye-bye accord,” Gandhi said. Rajnath Singh later tweeted that he was in the know.
The Opposition parties, Gandhi said, were not the PM’s enemies, urging him to listen to them. “…we don’t hate you. Just give the people the dignity of their word and listen to them,” Gandhi said.