Demonetisation: Narendra Modi discovers that silence in Parliament isn't always golden

It is a very well-known fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is an excellent orator. Even Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, who in past had called Modi a 'psychopath', had earlier also admitted that Modi is a "great orator" and has sent all the "right" messages (even though he felt that the delivery of his promises was "very low").

Modi has always been a clever politician who knows how to handle criticism and also how to respond properly to the Opposition (more on this later).

Now, let's take a look at what the prime minister has said so far on the issue of demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.

If one briefly summarises the most prominent speeches or statements made by the prime minister since he announced demonetisation on 8 November, one concludes that Modi has addressed the people on the issue of demonetisation — sometimes emotionally — at rallies and through his radio address Mann Ki Baat.

He has also spoken many times against the Opposition on the issue of demonetisation, whether it is asking people to choose between those trying to call for a 'Bharat Bandh' and those trying to fight against black money or whether it is alleging at a rally that the politicians behind chit fund scams are now attacking him.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. AP

File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. AP

The prime minister has also addressed BJP MPs at parliamentary party meetings, sometimes emotionally appealing to them to endorse his "crusade" and sometimes asking them to submit bank account statements.

Probably the only thing the prime minister has not done so far when it comes to making statements on demonetisation is the most significant because it has caused a massive uproar in the Parliament.

Despite the Opposition leaders shouting 'Pradhan mantri jawab do!' slogans in both Houses of Parliament and leaving the Speakers in both the Houses no option but to adjourn the proceedings over their demand for a statement from the prime minister in the Parliament over demonetisation, Modi has not made a single statement in either of the Houses of Parliament on this issue so far.

Of course, it is mostly because of the Opposition that the Winter Session so far has almost always descended into a shouting match. But a speech from the prime minister would only make the government's charge against the Opposition of unnecessarily disrupting the proceedings of the House only stronger.

But it wasn't always like this. In the past, Modi has given the Opposition scathing responses in Parliament. For example, in March this year, Modi had responded to Opposition's uproar in the Lok Sabha and had implied that Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi was reluctant to learn with age.

"Some people learn with age but some don't," he had said, also suggesting that Rahul tearing an Ordinance during a press conference in 2013 had embarrassed the Congress.

The prime minister had also cleverly quoted Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Rajendra Prasad to ask the Opposition to cooperate in the Parliament.

Why have we not seen such witty barbs and sharp statements from the prime minister during the current Winter Session so far?

Some people may argue that the prime minister making a statement in the House may make the Opposition look stronger by creating an impression that Modi finally gave in to Opposition demand.

But the prime minister's silence in the Parliament has only made the Opposition look stronger and their claims that Modi is scared of speaking in the Parliament more noticeable.

On Friday, Rahul Gandhi said that Modi was only interested in doing "TRP politics". Congress leader Kapil Sibal had earlier told Times Now outside the Parliament that the prime minister was not coming to Parliament because he was crying.

Now, while such statements are silly and made purely to gain political points, Modi's silence in Parliament gives more weight to such attacks from the Opposition.

Moreover, there are specific points like the deaths allegedly linked to demonetisation or Manmohan Singh's claims in his Rajya Sabha speech that the GDP will fall by two percentage points due to demonetisation and his "monumental mismanagement" and "organised loot" barbs which Modi has not responded to.

It is partly because of a lack of response from the prime minister that Manmohan Singh's speech had a huge impact on many people in the country.

For the moment, let's forget about whether or not demonetisation was a correct move. Let's forget about whether or not Opposition leaders were making substantial points on demonetisation.

The deafening silence of the prime minister in the Parliament so far has made the Opposition's points stronger, irrespective of whether or not they make sense.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Dec 02, 2016 13:23 PM

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