Narendra Modi delivers sucker punch, takes on Opposition at parliamentary meet

Prime Minister Narendra Modi couldn't speak in Parliament in the washed out winter session. However, the Prime Minister found another smart way to be heard — convene BJP parliamentary party meeting and get his speech there recorded by official government broadcaster DD News — and have that telecast after both Houses of Parliament were adjourned sine die.

By the time Modi's address to his own party MPs — 282 from Lok Sabha and 55 from Rajya Sabha — could be telecast in the afternoon, thanks to Congress party's strategy to go solo to give political mileage to Rahul Gandhi by personally petitioning the Prime Minister for farmer loan waiver, the brief opposition unity was tattered.

 Narendra Modi delivers sucker punch, takes on Opposition at parliamentary meet

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

Modi had used the opportunity to blast Congress, citing documented evidence since the time of Indira Gandhi and sending out the message that the main opposition party and its leaders were self-centred who gave more importance to the electoral survival of the party than the nation. This was, which Modi pointed out, was in contrast to BJP's "nation first" stance.

Citing excerpts from former home secretary Madhav Godbole's book Unfinished Innings: Recollections and Reflections of a Civil Servant, the Prime Minister said that demonetisation was the need of the hour in 1971 but Indira Gandhi with an eye on coming elections chose to take the populist path: "When YB Chavan told her (Indira) about the proposal for demonetisation and his view that it should be accepted and implemented forthwith, she asked only one question, "Chavanji, are no more elections to be fought by Congress?"" Chavan got the message and the recommendation was dumped.

Modi also referred to the Wanchoo committee report recommendations stressing on the need for demonetisation in 1971.

Indira Gandhi's reference and her snub on demonetisation of high denomination currency notes were aimed to serve twin purposes — that Congress or more particularly her daughter-in-law and grandson and their new found allies were patently wrong in acting rough against Modi. Second, his comparisons with Indira Gandhi was to drive home the point that while she always had Congress' electoral gains in mind before taking a decision Modi always have the guts to take bold and tough decisions for the country irrespective of electoral implications.

While going out strongly against the Congress, Modi didn't spare other opposition parties either, which had lately aligned with Congress on the issue: "Disruption of parliamentary proceeds have been taking place earlier also but this time it was far too much. The difference between earlier occasions and winter session disruptions is that while earlier disruptions had taken place because some corruption cases had come up and some expose had happened. The opposition would unite to fight on the issue of integrity and honesty but this has happened for the first time that the treasury benches had taken steps to fight corruption and most in opposition had united to support the corrupt."

"The political standards have fallen to such low level that some people dare to stand for the corrupt. This is a huge concern," he said. In the same breathe he had a word of praise for Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar who despite ideological differences with the BJP supported the demonetisation move. "Jyoti Basu had once favoured demonetisation. But today, see what the communists are doing," Modi said, taking potshots at the CPM.

He talked of denigration of political standards for the second time where he referred to some parties including Congress, AAP and some other parties asking for proof of Indian Army's surgical strike in Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir(PoK). "Today is 16 December, India had made Pakistan surrender and Bangladesh was liberated. There was a robust opposition then but no one had then asked for evidence and when today Indian soldiers show valour then they ask for evidence. Falling standards in public life is a matter of grave concern," Modi said.

Besides targeting his political rivals, the Prime Minister sought to psychologically prepare people of the nation to be ready to face some hardships beyond 50-day-period that he had initially asked for.

Demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 is an important milestone but not the end of it. If the exploitation of middle class has to end and rights of the poor have to be protected then corruption has to be eliminated.

"I have said this before, 50 days would be pinching and thereafter the problems would slowly ease. Nobody could have imagined the kind of success and popular support we have achieved," he said. For him, this was a move to stop the exploitation of the middle class and protect rights of poor.

Modi hinted that his strike on Benami property could come soon. Demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes was an important milestone in the fight against corruption but not the end destination of it. Mark his words, "After all why we passed Benami property law. Now they will shout Modi has passed that law in haste. The question is why did you not implement it since 1988. Modi government has passed the law and will now implement it." He anticipated that once that law is implemented, suggesting a possible crackdown of benami properties, then again opposition parties would cry hoarse.

His idea was now that winter session of Parliament has come to a close the MPs should go to their respective constituencies and talk about virtues of demonetisation and push for a digital economy.

From the ruling BJP perspective, the closing day of the washed out Winter Session had given them strong talking points — Modi had spoken what he wanted to speak, if not on floor of the House then at the parliamentary party meet in the Parliament House premises, got the rights of persons with disability bill passed and put Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi in an awkward position for two reasons.

First, Rahul Gandhi's failure to give evidence of what he had claimed earlier at a press conference. "Read my lips. The Prime Minister is personally terrified with the information that I have. I have information on the personal corruption of (the) Prime Minister." Second, Rahul Gandhi's own act to take mileage by taking a Congress delegation to Modi seeking loan waivers for farmers almost instantaneously broke opposition unity ranks. NCP's Prafulla Patel and CPM's Sitaram Yechuri publicly expressed their displeasure over Rahul's move and disassociated with the Congress-led opposition march to the President House. Besides, NCP and Left, SP, BSP and DMK which had earlier sided with Congress inside both Houses of Parliament too chose to stay away from Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi-led march to Rashtrapati Bhawan.

Congress was left only with TMC and RJD. While Trinamool Congress is desperate to find support from any quarter for Mamta Banerjee's protest against demonetisation and RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav is eyeing longer run association with Congress should Nitish Kumar dump RJD and go for a fresh political realignment in times to come.

The problem for Congress is that it can't take on Modi government for Prime Minister's speech broadcast by DD News. The Congress had set a new precedent in 2004 when Congress parliamentary party meeting at Central Hall of Parliament, emotional outpourings for Sonia Gandhi when she had nominated Manmohan Singh to be Prime Minister in May 2004 was broadcast live.

Watch the full video of Modi's speech here:

Updated Date: Dec 17, 2016 08:55:29 IST