Modi’s Lok Sabha speech gave away what he fears the most: Rahul Gandhi’s perseverance

Modi’s speech in Lok Sabha betrayed the insecurity of RSS-BJP at the fact that Rahul Gandhi and Congress represent a political force which will not allow them to go unchallenged

Modi’s Lok Sabha speech gave away what he fears the most: Rahul Gandhi’s perseverance

Sanjukta Basu

While Rahul Gandhi’s ‘motion of thanks’ speech in Parliament was widely appreciated by people across party lines as one of the defining moments in recent politics, PM Narendra Modi, in response, has delivered a most uninspiring and crass political speech.

A close look to the speech shows that behind all the aggression was Modi’s fear that the Congress is here to stay for the long fight againstthe BJP.

Rahul Gandhi was disappointed that the Presidential Address did not have any vision and failed to mention burning issues that the nation is facing such as unemployment, concentration of wealth, corporate monopoly, security threats at the border due to failed foreign policies, internal strife due to cultural hegemony etc.

The same remained true for the Prime Minister’s speech as well which too lacked a vision and failed to address any of the issues raised by Rahul Gandhi.

Far from countering Gandhi’s allegations by furnishing credible data, Modi stooped down to the same old tactics of digging into the past and attacking the Congress, deploying lies, half-truths and vague rhetorical words and phrases that did not add up to anything substantial.

Modi blamed the Congress party of spreading COVID in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand by providing free train tickets and bus rides to help the migrant workers reach their villages during the 2020 migrant exodus.

“They pushed migrant workers in Mumbai to return to their states… and committed paap (sin),” Modi said.

During the first wave of COVID, Modi gave 3-4 days’ notice for performing gimmicks such as banging plates and lighting diyas, presumably so that his PR team could prepare for the photo opportunity and headlines, but only 4 hours’ notice was given for a nationwide indefinite lockdown, causing massive panic amongst the migrants who started walking towards their homes even as trains and buses were shut down.

At that time, several NGOs, volunteer groups as well as the Congress party helped the migrants with food, water, night shelter and means to commute.

It is bizarre that Modi would call this help as a paap (sin). “If looking after them - with food and shelter was wrong in the eyes of the PM, then we will make this mistake 100 times over for humanity,” tweeted Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi soon after Modi’s speech.

Moreover, the Centre itself claimed credit for providing 85% of the train fares to the migrants, so who really committed the sin?

Without any apparent reason or context, Modi blamed Congress of “divide and rule” and labelled it as the leader of the “tukde tukde gang”.

Firstly, the Home Ministry itself has clarified that there is no such thing as ‘tukde tukde gang’. It is a street level slang language, and it does not behove of a PM to use it in Parliament against democratically-elected representatives.

Secondly, Modi forgets that before accusing somebody of ‘divide and rule’, one should check if they are indeed “ruling”. The ruling party is BJP. It is the BJP which is dividing the nation on the lines of Hindu-Muslim.

It is India’s misfortune that even after eight years of rule with a thumping majority, Modi is unable to overcome his Congress phobia and spends 90% of his speech time targeting the grand old party all the while claiming that the nation has rejected it.

If indeed the nation has rejected it, then why is the Congress still at the centre of Modi’s speech? It is a conundrum nobody is able to solve.

“PM told Lok Sabha that Congress is doing everything not to come back to power and this suits him perfectly. Then why is he devoting so much of his speech time to Congress. No mention of any other political party in his address. Wonder why?” asked The Wire Founder M.K. Venu on Twitter.

In more convoluted and out of context statements, Modi connected Nehru, Korea war and inflation and cooked up hypothetical scenarios about what the Congress have said about inflation if it had been in power.

The irony is, that the prime minister who is in power with 300+ MPs, has not had the courage to speak up on real issues but has the time and leisure to mock the small opposition of 44 MPs with imaginary things it would have said had it been in power.

It is this level of unintelligent and uninspiring political discourse that Rahul Gandhi said does not suit Parliament and the nation. The nation deserves higher standards of debates and discussions in Parliament, Gandhi had said in his motion of thanks speech.

Rahul Gandhi had also raised the issue of the nation’s wealth being concentred in a few hands, particularly that of Adani and Ambani whom he referred to as the “AA Variant” in his motion of thanks speech on February 2.

Responding to that, Modi resorted to whataboutery by bringing in ‘Tata Birla Ki Sarkar’ jibe that was perhaps hurled against Nehru or Indira Gandhi, and then brazenly supported Ambani and Adani, calling them as ‘entrepreneurs’.

However, Adani and Ambani are not mere ‘entrepreneurs’ and Modi cannot get away by pretending that concentration of wealth and monopolies in corporate sector are not serious issues. These are dangerous a roadblock to economic freedom and democracy.

India enacted the Competition Act in 2002 and established the Competition Commission precisely to prevent monopolies. But the Modi government has been handing over private and public sector units to these few hands, creating a different kind of monopoly.

Instead of even attempting to explain his position on the issue, Modi resorted to the kind of argument which social media trolls resort to.

Modi blamed Congress for ‘not giving up arrogance’ despite repeated electoral defeats, which seemed like a sign of utter exasperation that despite relentless abuse, mockery and electoral defeats, Rahul Gandhi is not willing to give up and fade away from India’s electoral landscape. “…Don't show them the mirror or they will break it,” Modi said.

However, what Modi wishes to call ‘arrogance’ appears to be Rahul Gandhi’s ‘perseverance’ and patience to fight the long battle which is evidently a cause of huge concern for the RSS-BJP.

Taking a jibe at the issues raised by Rahul Gandhi, Modi said, “When I hear some of their statements and the kind of issues they raise, I feel that they have decided that they have resolved not to come to power for the next 100 years.”

Reading between the lines, this statement shows Modi’s fear that the Congress will fight for 100 years if need be and India will never really be ‘Congress mukt’, as Modi likes to say.

This is not the first time that the Prime Minister has lowered the standards of political discourse by using Parliament for political speeches full of lies, but it definitely came across as one of his worst.

Rahul Gandhi’s growing popularity in the last two years seems to have rattled the RSS-BJP which is playing out in this hyperbole of speeches.

(Views are personal)

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