He was confident, combative and in command. He spoke with candour and was assertive about whatever he was promising. His barbs at the Opposition, particularly the Congress, were unusually sharp. One saw Narendra Modi, while responding to the president’s address, in a new incarnation.
Gone was the Narendra Modi who used to promise achhe din and talk superlatively about schemes like the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. But the result not being perceptive immediately, people were not very happy or satisfied. The Opposition made use of such sentiment to attack Modi and the government.
But this was not the Modi who used to ignore barbs from the Opposition and the media. This was not the Modi who seemed to be over-confident nor was there any tinge of self-aggrandisement. When he said that he was the government and he was responsible for the actions and its functioning, it seemed to be a matter of fact a statement.
Modi’s Barbs At A Glance
- Denies that NGREGA will be abolished. Said it testifies to the failure of the Congress, how he could abolish it.
- Denies that all his plans are copies of what UPA had floated. Said “you (Congress) took over all the projects of Atalji and renamed them.” He enumerated the list of projects picked up by the UPA.
- Denies that the BJP is a party of upper caste. Has asserted that his standing here is proof enough.
- Denies that the NDA helps only corporate. He cited Gram Jan Yojana, Swachh Bharat, building of three lakh houses in villages, fixing of toilets in villages and cleaning of the Ganga.
- Asks the opposition to cooperate then corruption can be curbed in future.
- Taunts that the CAG report that Rs186 crore had been misappropriated. Was refuted and giving it a political tinge.
- Now Modi is floating some schemes which could be perceived and benefits could reach people.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi took clear shots at the Congress over one of its flagship schemes for rural employment. “I will ensure MNREGA is never discontinued. It is a proof of your failings. After so many years of being in power, all you were able to deliver is for a poor man to dig ditches a few days a month,” said the Premier in the Parliament.
Modi said that he will ensure that the scheme is fortified. “You will give me credit for this at least that I have some rajneetik sudhbudh (political acumen),” he said. “This is why MNREGA will stay.” Sonia Gandhi, the Congress president, looked on stoically. Modi took a swipe at those who blamed him for encouraging on the quiet ghar wapsi and love jihad. “My government has only one religion—India first,” unequivocally assuring Parliament of his commitment to religious equality and tolerance.
“And my holy book is the Constitution.” He said this in a very assertive tone, leaving the Opposition no quarter to doubt him. “Nobody has the right to discriminate on the basis of religion. My government has only this ideology—India and the Constitution above all else.”
The difference in his style was very obvious—he was, while defending himself and his government, kept taunting the Opposition. His attacks had their effect. Sonia Gandhi and others had long faces. In fact, she kept turning and looking at the Opposition benches hoping someone will interrupt Modi, who was in full flow.
He didn’t even spare Mulayam Singh, who was slouching on his seat next to Sonia Gandhi. Singh had accused Modi of not keeping his promise to have Assi Ghat cleaned as yet. Modi responded: “I did not know how to reply. I was uncertain whether he was giving report card of his State or the Centre’s. I don’t know whether I should laugh or cry.”
In fact in his confrontational mood, Modi replied to all the charges made by the Opposition in the last nine months. On black money, he turned the table on the Congress. He asked the Congress why they did not form SIT on black money for three years despite the direction of the Supreme Court. “You sat on it for three years. I formed it at the very first meet of our Cabinet.” He continued to embarrass the UPA further. He said: “‘You’ all used to go to G20 Summits but you did nothing about black money. I went for the first time. In fact most faces were new for me. But I got black money and drug trafficking included in the final Declaration.”
He warned, “We will not digress or slow down in unearthing black money nor will spare anyone found guilty.”
The Congress MPs sat quietly while Sonia Gandhi looked uncomfortable. But Modi was relentlessly rubbing in the salt. He referred to the Land Acquisition Bill: “No one should feel proud that there can be no better Bill. If there are lacunae or mistakes, I am willing to change and don’t worry I myself would credit for that to you.
“When I took over, chief ministers of all states wrote that that they are unable to procure land for irrigation projects. Farmers were suffering.”
Then he took another dig. “We are planning army stations, how can we write that. It would then be better that we write to Pakistan where our Army is stationed.”
Modi was equally confident while speaking on the President’s Address in the Rajya Sabha. The difference was that for the Upper House he was ‘armed’ with lots of facts and figures. He was, for example, refuting the oft-repeated charge by the Congress that all its projects are being pursued by him under new names. He took over half a dozen projects launched by Atal Behari Vajpayee were taken over by the UPA and given new names. He was equally dismissive of several other criticisms.
On BJP being branded as upper caste Party that helps corporate, Modi replied in detail. He said he’s been standing in the House belies that the BJP is a party of upper castes. Then he started enumerating the programmes of his government.
“Is the Jan Gram scheme for the corporate? Is the Swachh Bharat scheme in which over five lakh toilets are being fixed in villages, a scheme for the corporate? Are the three lakh houses being built in villages, do any corporate need it? The cleaning of the Ganga which will give economic power to villages along its course, is it a scheme for the corporate?” Modi said.
In the Rajya Sabha, he was prepared with lots of data and statistics. He just silenced the opposition.
The fact is the Modi of today is clearly supremely confident and beliefs in his capability to deliver on his promises, which people can see. The Mudra Bank scheme for vendors and other street hawkers and small items’ sellers from carts would bring immediate relief to hundreds of thousands of them across the country.
Such schemes will help Modi keep his vote bank and supporters intact.
The fact is this Modi has sent chill down the spine of the Opposition. The main party, the Congress is comatose and is slowly disappearing from the Indian political firmament. He has now an open field to operate freely.
The only danger is if he stumbles now, he has no one to blame. He has no option but to succeed.
By VIjay Dutt