Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday held a gathering for the 400-odd MPs of the National Democratic Alliance, the first such event since taking power at the Centre.
His message to the allies was clear: “think big, far and above politics” and be a “force with tremendous positive energy” while helping the government achieve its goals.
The Diwali Milan, at the PM’s residence, was seen as an exercise to dispel any impression of a gap between the government and the alliance. And Modi sought to take the MPs on board as he discussed his government’s recent initiatives.
All Shiv Sena MPs, including Union heavy industries minister Anant Geete, were present but there were no political discussions, as suspense continued over whether the party will be part of a BJP-led government in Maharashtra. “It was a purely official function,” Geete said.
Modi urged the NDA MPs to visit schools in their areas over a five-day period starting November 14 — the 125th birth anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru — and explain to children the importance of hygiene. “Achieving Swachh Bharat (clean India) is tough but just as the people of this country got together to eradicate polio, Swachh Bharat can also be achieved,” he said.
Making a detailed presentation on the economy, finance minister Arun Jaitley explained the reasons behind the government’s gas pricing and diesel deregulation moves.
He argued that the decision to let the market determine petroleum product prices had helped bring down diesel rates. And he pointed out that while the Centre was committed to pushing growth, it was mindful of the people and had taken the end user price into consideration while determining gas pricing.
The minister also said the government had managed to curb inflation to some extent, and briefed MPs on the Pradhanmantri Jan Dhan Yojana, calling the ‘banking for all’ mission a big success.
Similarly, labour minister Narendra Singh Tomar made a presentation on recent reforms undertaken by the government while rural development minister Nitin Gadkari briefed MPs about the Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana, under which parliamentarians would adopt and develop model villages .
Modi urged his guests to convey to the masses that these initiatives were not aimed at curbing the interests of workers but, rather, were an exercise to ensure their rights were protected.
To an enquiry from the audience on the progress in the black money case, Jaitley said investigations in some cases were nearing conclusion and the government would soon file a charge sheet in court and also bring the names of foreign account holders in the public domain.
The event also saw the PM felicitate BJP president Amit Shah for the party’s victory in the Haryana and Maharashtra elections.