From roasting the Modi government for its ‘lust to divide’ to grilling it over dismal economic indicators, and from slamming the ruling party for poaching legislators from non-NDA parties to raising issues of urgent importance to the states, the Opposition set the tone for the Budget session of Parliament. Here are excerpts from speeches of some prominent Opposition leaders
Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra has warned of a rising fascism in India that would ultimately tear apart the much-cherished Constitution, as she listed the portents that, according to her, point towards an imminent fascist rule in the country where citizens, institutions and media would be reduced to mere puppets and xenophobia would define the contours of societal inclusion.
Giving her maiden speech in the Lok Sabha on June 25 on the motion of thanks on the President’s address, which she peppered with excerpts from the works of Maulana Azad, Ramdhari Singh Dinkar and Rahat Indori, Moitra roasted the Narendra Modi government for its “lust to divide” and for mixing religion with the government.
“This Constitution is under threat today. Perhaps you are missing the signs and if you would only open your eyes, you would see that there are signs everywhere.
That this country is being torn apart. The first sign is that there is the powerful and continuing nationalism that is searing into our national fabric. It is superficial, it is xenophobic and it is narrow,” she said.
Lashing out at the NRC exercise going on in Assam, the investment banker-turned-politician said that in a country where “ministers cannot produce degrees to show that they have graduated from college”, the government was expecting the “dispossessed poor people to show papers” to prove they belong to India.
“There has been a ten-fold increase in the number of hate crimes between 2014 and 2019. The lynching of citizens in broad daylight is being condoned from Pehlu Khan in Rajasthan last year to (Tabrez) Ansari in Jharkhand yesterday, the list is not stopping,” she said.
“There is an unimaginable subjugation of mass media today. TV channels spread a majority of airtime broadcasting propaganda for the ruling party, coverage of every opposition party is cut out. Let the government come out with facts and figures to show ad-spend per media house, what they are spending the money on and which media house they are blocking out. The I&B Ministry employs over 120 people solely to check the content on TV channels every day to make sure that there is no anti-government news being put out. Fake news is the norm,” Moitra added.
She also tore into “an obsession with the national security” and the achievements of the Army being “usurped in the name of one man” even as terrorist attacks have gone up manifold and there is a 106 per cent increase in the death of jawans in Kashmir over the last five years.
“There is a suppression of all dissent. Funding is being cut for liberal education.
Article 51 of the Constitution demands a scientific temperament. Everything we are doing is pushing India back to the dark ages. Secondary school textbooks are being manipulated and distorted in order to indoctrinate. You do not even tolerate questioning let alone dissent. The spirit of dissent is integral to India. You cannot shackle us. I tell you this, you cannot keep us down,” she stressed.
Slamming the ruling BJP for poaching its legislators, Telugu Desam Party Lok Sabha member from Guntur Jayadev Galla wondered if the much touted slogan of ‘Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas’ by Prime Minister Narendra Modi meant to “gobble up” all the political parties.
Speaking in the Lok Sabha on the motion of thanks to the President’s address on Tuesday (June 25), Galla also cautioned against eroding of institutions which, he said, had been built “brick by brick over the decades”.
“Destroying, tinkering, weakening or weaponizing these institutions will cripple our democracy which we are proud of; and if corrective measures are not taken, it will ultimately destroy our freedom and liberty…It reached its peak during the Emergency and we are seeing a similar scenario now as well,” he said.
Citing examples of misusing of institutions at will by the government of the day, Galla pointed at a notification issued by the Union Home Ministry in December 2018 under the IT Act on “monitoring, decryption of information generated, transferred, received or stored in a computer source without any requirement to get any authorization from anyone in the government”.
“The second is the misuse of the Election Commission during recent elections, which many of the members have spoken about.
“The third and the latest one is how the BJP is breaking our party and grabbing four of our Rajya Sabha MPs by resorting to coercive politics and weaponizing institutions. The Prime Minister in all his speeches is using the phrase ‘Sab ka Saath’. But what is happening on the ground and in Parliament and state Assemblies is the other way around,” he said.
“What is the meaning of these slogans? Does he want that all parties should join BJP?...The real meaning of Sab ka Saath is that you should be taking us along with you to build this great country. It does not mean that you gobble up MPs from other parties. It does not mean that you scare others by using CBI, IT, ED and other agencies.
“No party, however powerful it may be; no leader, however
powerful he or she may be and no institution should be able to dictate terms or impose their wishes on smaller and regional parties,” he said.
Coming to economy, he pointed out that the fourth quarter growth figure of 2018-19 stands at 5.8 per cent, which is less than that of China for the first time in the last few years.
“This figure is really putting a question mark in the minds of people whether the government has really inflated the growth figures (as claimed by former CECA Arvind Subramanian). It is not just the economic data, even the unemployment figures had also been suppressed, which stands at an all-time high in the last 40 years. This puts a cloud of doubt on our data and figures because we are not able to get the correct picture,” Galla said.
He said that if the laws are made in the absence of correct and trusted figures, “this Parliament will be driving in the dark without the lights on”.
“I am saying this because if we legislate with either inflated or with suppressed figures, how do we know if our decisions will have positive impact on the people or not. In such a scenario, the whole planning, budgeting and law-making process becomes meaningless. How are you going to ensure sab ka vikas when the data given by the government is being questioned?
“The correct figures are all the more important now as the Finance Minister is going to present the Budget just in a few days from now. The Economic Survey is also going to be presented to the House. I am sure, the figures of the Economic Survey have already been finalised and we cannot change them now, but the moot point is: Can we trust this data?” he said.