Modi walks the extra mile to mend fences with Congress; invokes Nehru, past prime ministers

An hour before Narendra Modi was to receive Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former prime minister Manmohan Singh at his residence 7 Race Course Road, he elegantly laid out the table for tea and a “conciliatory” discussion on the all important economic reform Bill GST.

Sanjay Singh November 28, 2015 15:10:07 IST
Modi walks the extra mile to mend fences with Congress; invokes Nehru, past prime ministers

An hour before Narendra Modi was to receive Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former prime minister Manmohan Singh at his residence 7 Race Course Road, he elegantly laid out the table for tea and a “conciliatory” discussion on the all important economic reform Bill GST through his concluding remarks at the two-day long debate in Parliament on Constitution Day to commemorate 125th birth anniversary of BR Ambedkar.

For long Modi has been accused of speaking like a campaigner for the BJP and not like a statesman or like the prime minister of the country. So when he rose to speak in Lok Sabha at 5 pm the air was thick with expectations. Modi proved his political rivals and critics wrong and spoke like the leader of the country.

Modi walks the extra mile to mend fences with Congress invokes Nehru past prime ministers

Narendra Modi. PTI

The content of his speech, his overall tone and tenor was more on the lines of one had made on day one of his entry in Indian Parliament. He did make his political points when he referred to the emergence of Jaiprakash Narayan as Loknayak in 1975 during Emergency on the issues of corruption and political authoritarianism and the matter of Congress’s Giridhar Gamang voting against Atal Bihari Vajpayee in a confidence vote in 1997, but he narrated these in a much broader perspective.

He also addressed two other accusations against him – first, he ignores the Congress’s legacy and that of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in particular, and second, he is authoritarian in his approach. He recalled Nehru’s political maturity while narrating an instance of a debate between him and socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia in Parliament. Earlier, he had referred to Nehru’s contribution, albeit without naming him, while talking about foresightedness and maturity of framers of the Indian Constitution and of the then government.

“I have said this before and will say it now that this country would not have advanced without contribution of all prime ministers, of all governments of the past and of all shades of people. I accept their contributions with gratitude. Yes there are expectations and when those expectations are not met complaints are made but that’s the beauty of democracy,” he said.

He struck a very conciliatory note, even referring to Sonia as Madam Sonia Gandhi ji, and repeating the quote of Ambedkar as the Congress president had said a day ago. “The democracy gets strength only when there is consensus and conciliation. It is only when all such things fail the issue of majority and minority should come in. Just because this side is in majority it can’t thrust its will on the other side,” he said.

Modi dwelt at length on the virtues of Ambedkar and underlined why he must be looked at with great reverence: he didn't let the neglect and deprivation he faced as a Dalit reflect when he was drafting Constitution. If his intention was to appropriate the Ambedkar’s legacy for the BJP and address to the Dalit constituency, it was thinly veiled.

That political part apart, Modi in his over an hour-long speech created a perfect ambience for a virtual summit meeting with Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh. The later were after all making their first visit to 7 RCR. Modi stood at the door to give them a warm welcome. This could mark the beginning of the change in the equations between the government and the main opposition party.

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