India behind me, Opposition charges absurd: Modi in Parliament

By, New Delhi
Feb 09, 2023 04:36 AM IST

In his reply to the motion of thanks to the President’s Address in the Lok Sabha, Modi hit out at what he called dispirited leaders who had thwarted India from achieving is potential, and challenged the Opposition to convince millions of beneficiaries of his social welfare programmes with their “wild allegations” and “dirty abuses”.

The blessings of India’s 1.4 billion people who experienced basic services for the first time under this government is an armour that baseless allegations by the Opposition cannot pierce, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday in Parliament, responding to a political storm over allegations of fraud levelled at the Adani Group and his own perceived proximity to it.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi.(PTI)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi.(PTI)

In his reply to the motion of thanks to the President’s Address in the Lok Sabha, Modi hit out at what he called dispirited leaders who had thwarted India from achieving is potential, and challenged the Opposition to convince millions of beneficiaries of his social welfare programmes with their “wild allegations” and “dirty abuses”.

“Instead of a dynasty, I am a member of the family of 140 crore Indians. The blessings of 140 crore Indians is my suraksha kavach (protective armour),” he said to loud applause from his party colleagues and allies in the Lower House.

He hailed his government for working through difficult times, ensuring basic amenities, boosting the economy, and ensuring Covid-19 vaccination, and said that Indian society rewarded positivity, not negativity. But he didn’t mention any opposition parties or the Adani Group, which lost north of $100 billion in market value after an American firm accused it of fraud and manipulation.

In his 84-minute speech, Modi said the Opposition was in denial that they could succeed by only abusing the PM. “The faith in Modi is not due to newspaper headlines or television images. It is because I have spent my life, every moment of it , for the people of the country, for its bright future,” he said, to chants of “Modi Modi” by the treasury benches.

The PM was speaking a day after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi alleged links between state visits and the Adani Group’s global gains, accusing the government of bending rules to benefit the embattled tycoon. A number of other opposition parties supported him, demanding a joint parliamentary committee probe. “I am not satisfied with the PM’s speech. However, it has revealed the truth. His speech had nothing about an inquiry,” Gandhi told reporters outside Parliament.

During his speech, the Bharat Rashtra Samithi walked out, Opposition leaders demanded he speak about Adani, the Congress walked out briefly, some members raised placards, and frequently erupted in protest. But Modi stood his ground, repeatedly stressing the success of welfare schemes .

He said people who received the benefits of free ration, the farmer who got direct benefits in their account, the 30 million people who have got houses, the 80 million who have piped drinking water, the 90 million people with free gas cylinders and 110 million women with toilets will never believe the lies of the Opposition.

“These people, who had to live for decades in difficult conditions, know that Modi has helped them. Why will they believe your lies?” he asked.

Dressed in a white kurta and a blue jacket made from recycled plastic, Modi spoke about India’s rising prestige on the world stage, and credited this positivity and hope to political stability, the growing capability of the country and new emerging possibilities. “India has a government that is stable and decisive. Reforms are not carried out of compulsion but by conviction. The world is seeing prosperity in India’s prosperity,” he added.

He underlined the country’s progress in digitisation, vaccination, nurturing start-ups, mobile phone production, renewable energy transition, sporting achievements and education, contrasting it with the previous United Progressive Alliance’s 10 years at the helm.

“The years between 2004 to 2014 were burdened with scams and at the same time there were terror attacks happening in every corner of the country. This decade saw the decline of the Indian economy and the Indian voice grew very feeble on global fora. It was the lost decade….while this is India’s decade,” he said.

Taking on the Congress, the PM said the UPA era was marked by mauke main musibat (adversity in opportunity), giving the example of 2G, Commonwealth Games, and coal allocation scams, and allegations of cash-for-votes.

“Today, the country is full of self-confidence and realising its dreams and resolutions…the entire world is looking towards India with eyes of hope and credited the stability and possibility,” he said.

Noting that India is the mother of democracy, the PM said constructive criticism was vital for a strong democracy, and said that criticism was like a shuddhi yagya (purification ritual). “I have been waiting for someone to do the analysis and hard work. But instead of constructive criticism, some people indulge in compulsive criticism. In the last 9 years, we have had compulsive critics who indulge in unsubstantiated allegations instead of constructive criticism.”

He said the Opposition blamed electronic voting machines after losing polls, the Supreme Court after an adverse verdict, agencies if a corruption probe is initiated, and the military after an operation. “What elections couldn’t do, the ED (Enforcement Directorate) has done – bring all opposition parties on one platform,” he said.

“Some people have a craze for Harvard studies. Let me remind them about one important Harvard study on the rise and decline of the Congress. Not just Harvard, major universities will study the rout of the Congress,” he said, quoting poet Dushyant Kumar to take a jibe at the opposition benches.

He accused the Opposition of contradicting itself. “Since 2014, you’ve been saying India is getting weak. But now you’re saying India is so strong that it is able to influence decisions in other countries. First you decide whether India is weak or strong,” he said, in an apparent reference to allegations that the government helped the Adani Group secure lucrative contracts in other countries.

Modi said the Opposition’s frustration came from the repeated mandate of the people (in favour of the BJP), and said, “Those who want to return to power must introspect. Those who sat here (in ruling benches) have failed as the Opposition while the country has passed with distinction.”

He specifically mentioned the outreach done by his government to Dalit, backward and tribal communities, and women. “These people received houses, piped water and even 4G connectivity for the first time. Today the country is proud to have its first tribal president.” he said.

He highlighted the opportunities given to the middle class. “Vote Bank politics delayed India’s progress. But we took the middle class to new heights,” he said, mentioning government initiatives to boost education, health care, and infrastructure.

Closing his speech, he spoke of his government’s efforts to help transform Jammu and Kashmir, and the Northeast, which he said was no longer the backward region it used to be under previous governments.

He recalled how he flew the Tricolour in Lal Chowk in Srinagar decades ago. “Terrorists had put up posters. But I said that I would go to Lal Chowk without security or a bulletproof vest to hoist the flag, and anyone worth their mettle should try to stop me,” he said.

“People who would say that hoisting the Tricolour could disturb peace are today doing tiranga yatra,” he added, a possible reference to Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra that culminated with the Tricolour being hoisted in Lal Chowk on January 30.

Gandhi, meanwhile said the Prime Minister did not answer any of the Opposition’s questions in his reply and, instead, deflected blame over corruption.

Speaking to the media outside Parliament, Gandhi said, “I just asked him how many times have you met Adani but he said nothing about that. I am not satisfied with the PM’s speech but it reveals the truth. If PM Modi was not his (Adani’s) friend, then he would have called an inquiry over it. But there was no talk of setting up an inquiry.”

Trinamool Congress’s (TMC) leader in the Lok Sabha Sudip Bandyopadhyay said the PM should make a statement assuring the depositors of the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) and State Bank of India (SBI) that their money is in safe hands.

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