Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched a bitter attack on the Congress party in the Rajya Sabha, saying those opposing the dream of ‘New India by 2022’ want to live with their baggage of the past, and added in a taunt that even he wanted an India of Mahatma Gandhi’s dreams who had envisaged a “Congress-free India”.
Modi also took digs at the Congress party over various alleged scams of distant and recent past and for blocking the triple talaq legislation in Parliament.
“The President has spoken of a New India in his address. Swami Vivekananda also dreamt of a New India. Mahatma Gandhi would also speak of a Young India. I don’t know what is the (Congress party’s) problem with the New India. They say ‘we don’t need New India. We want our older India’,” Modi said as he started his reply to the debate on the Motion of Thanks on the President’s address.
“They say ‘we need Gandhi wala Bharat’ (India of Mahatma Gandhi’s dreams). Even I want Bharat of Gandhi’s dreams, because Gandhi said after Independence that now there is no need of the Congress party and it should be dissolved.
“Congress-mukt Bharat Gandhi ka vichar hai hamara nahi (Congress-free India is the idea of Gandhi not ours). We are only trying to walk in his footsteps,” Modi said in sarcasm, amid thumping of desks and laughter by the treasury members.
“If not New India, do you need India of army jeep scam, of submarine scam, of Bofors scam, of (Agusta) helicopter scam, of Emergency when the country was turned into a jail? Do you need India of the time when thousands of innocent Sikhs were massacred after a ‘big tree’ fell? Do you need India of the time when the culprit of thousands of deaths was provided an airplane to fly out of country (after Bhopal gas tragedy)?” Modi said, in an attacking mode.
The “big tree” jibe was a reference to former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s remarks who, reacting to the anti-Sikh violence in Delhi in the wake of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination by her Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984, reportedly said that when a “big tree falls”, the ground beneath was bound to shake.
“Is this why you don’t need New India?” Modi said.
He said his government was being labelled as “name changer not game changer”, but actually it was an “aim chaser” government that works hard and mobilizes resources to achieve its targets in a given timeframe.
Raking up the triple talaq Bill that is pending in the Rajya Sabha, Modi said that the Congress now wants changes in the Bill but it never brought such legislation while in government.
“You now want changes in the triple talaq Bill. You had got an opportunity to bring this legislations 30 years ago, but you didn’t under pressure from your vote bank. You did not want to lose your vote bank,” Modi said.
He also wondered why all the people were concerned for the man and his family who would be jailed for administering instant irrevocable divorce under the proposed law.
“Everybody is concerned about the elderly parents of the man who would be punished for giving triple talaq.
They ask who would take care of his elderly parents when he would be jailed. Why is there not similar concern for the elderly parents of a Hindu man who can be jailed for polygamy under present laws?” Modi said.
Replying to opposition criticism of the government splurging hundreds of crores on Swachh Bharat Mission advertising, Modi said that the money was not being splurged on giving full-page advertisements on the “birthdays of a single family” but was being utilized for “behavioral change”.
“Cleanliness, use of toilets, is more a behavioural issue than an infrastructure problem. Advertising is being done to teach the people, to bring about the required behavioural change. It is not being spent on celebrating birthdays of only one family through full-page advertisements worth crores,” Modi said.
The Prime Minister yet again raked up the issue of simultaneous polls and urged the parties to start a comprehensive discussion on the matter as this would save thousands of crores of rupees which can be used to fund various welfare schemes for the poor.
“In 2009, the Lok Sabha election cost around Rs 10 billion (Rs 1,000 crore). In 2014, the cost rose to Rs 40 billion (Rs 4,000 crore). In future elections, this will go further up. We need a lot of money for poor people’s welfare,” Modi said.