PM Modi’s Parliament speech gave a feeling that he is running out of tricks

When it comes to being economic with the truth, our honourable PM might just have got the Vishwa Guru award. The economic data he reeled out compares poorly with the ground reality

PM Modi’s Parliament speech gave a feeling that he is running out of tricks

Salman Khurshid

PM Narendra Modi’s reply to Motion of Thanks in Parliament, surprisingly, exhibited some humour, of course at the expense of Congress members. But it was not devoid of the usual sarcasm and badly disguised innuendoes.

Most of all, one got a feeling that the man is running out of tricks and has even less to say than in the past.

His repeated references to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, underscoring his title of ‘first Prime Minister’ of India, whom he quoted ostensibly to refute the criticism of the economic record of his government, left the audience wondering at the non sequiturs.

There were also flip flops between seeking (or was it advising?) the Opposition’s cooperation in nation building and attacking it for questioning the government’s policies. Calling the Congress full of hatred for the poor of India, influenced by a colonial mindset is hardly the way to expect empathy and cooperation.

Inevitably, the PM unfolded a rambling, directionless monologue on what is a nation. Not surprisingly, he quoted the wisdom of sages and scholars without the context to suggest that India’s nationhood was frozen in time and space, confusing between oneness and unity (with diversity).

The profound richness and diversity of our nation, celebrated by the inclusive approach of the Congress, was sadly suggested to be an attempt to undermine the nation.

Not surprisingly, he remained at the level of generalities and chose not to give specific examples even as his colleagues were frothing at the deviously created false controversy about the hijab.

As PM, he does not attempt to understand that the concept of a nation has conceptions too that add to its character and sustainability.

Jumping from a metaphysical conception to a geographical one, he continued to suggest that unwillingness to follow his script was an indication of flawed allegiance. This might be acceptable from anyone else but certainly not the Prime Minister of India.

Modi underscored historical changes in the political map of India since the 1960s as a discovery of the Congress in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh et al. The electoral system and democracy, it seems for the PM, were continuing mistakes except when the Congress was replaced by regional outfits (but not the BJP). The sixty years of Congress rule remain a disaster according to the PM, with every smile and gesture self-congratulatory for exemplary performance.

The sad sight of corpses floating in the Ganga during the Corona pandemic escaped an explanation, not to mention an apology, as he congratulated himself for the vaccination campaign.

There was no word about the misery of the citizens and the government’s obstinate refusal to address the economic distress of victim families who lost their loved ones, as indeed of those rendered jobless and without work for their small businesses.

Instead, we were told about thousands of startups and blossoming of MSMEs en route to becoming multinationals. With each mysterious figure quoted about performance was added the spice of ‘but the Congress hates them.’

The largest forced labour migration on foot since the Partition was Congress deviousness in instigating the helpless workers to return home from thousands of miles with the intent to spread the deadly virus.

Not a word about why the buses that the Rajasthan government had generously provided arrogantly prevented from providing help to the distressed migrants.

But we gave them free food, he said, as though you can have only one thing to keep body and soul together.

Did the PM forget, or his script writer deliberately chose to obfuscate the Food Security Act made law by the UPA government?

The Prime Minister taunted the Congress for having chosen to not come back to power for a hundred years. He said he was therefore all set to rule for that long.

Such ambition might be difficult to question when the leader commands a brute majority. But he might not have long to wait as the results of five Assembly elections will be known on the 10th of March. The hundred years might well be cut short somewhat.

The winning formula has quite obviously peaked and implicit or explicit attempts to polarise communities shall now pay diminishing returns for “80-20” provocations.

All that the Congress needs to do boldly is to claim the 80, not by emulating exclusive politics of the BJP but as the true inheritors of secular ethos and merge the 20 with 80 to seal a social-political alliance to beat all other games.

Oratory is easy when the numbers are with you, but the real test will be when the numbers are overturned.

One issue that one can have no dispute with is the Atma Nirbhar proposition of the PM, but that endorsement too has a serious caveat. Self-reliance must be for all, rich and poor, big and small. If it is a device to dampen ambitions of ordinary folk and feed them another variety of opium, it will be doomed self-reliance.

Furthermore, self-reliance cannot be another misleading slogan like ‘Swachh Bharat’ which lies in the heaps of garbage all across the country. We might well have much to learn on this front rather than teach to the world.

When it comes to being economic with the truth, our honourable PM might just have got the Vishwa Guru award. The economic data he reeled out compares poorly with the ground reality.

A magician can give you a feel-good factor for a while, but cannot fill an empty stomach or give a roof over the head.

The most interesting bit came on housing and how a citizen provided a modest homestead under the PM Awas Yojana becomes an instant Lakhpati. If that is an assessment of welfare, it must be a tick the box style. For a nation that needs out of the box thinking, the PM is pleased with bureaucratic boxes.

Will someone explain to him the difference between essential assets and sustained income? Housing, important and essential as it might be, is no substitute for empowerment.

(Views are personal)

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