On a day the no-confidence motion was defeated by a margin of 325-126, Narendra Modi showed yet again why he is nonpareil when it comes to oratorical skill. The prime minister took Rahul’s abuses and slogans head-on and turned it around in a masterful use of rhetoric to create political capital out of a seemingly tricky script. In the morning, an aggressive Rahul Gandhi, arms flailing and table-thumping had dared the prime minister to look into his eyes, and declared that prime minister’s “inner guilt” would not let him do so.
Modi rose to speak at the fag end of an exhausting day when the clock had well past the 9 pm mark. There were no exaggerated hand movements during his speech, but a mixture of biting sarcasm and factual rebuttals. He admitted that he indeed won’t be able to look directly at Rahul Gandhi. As the backward caste son of a poor mother, he doesn’t have the audacity to stare at an elitist dynast’s face. The satire was so thick that it could be cut with a knife.
"A member said that I can't look them in the eye. He is right. He is a big naamdaar while I am a backward caste man born of a poor mother. I am a simple kaamdaar. How dare I look them in the eye?" continued the prime minister, adding, “whenever anyone tried to look into their eyes — be it Subhas Chandra Bose, Morarji Desai, Jayaprakash Narayan, Chaudhary Charan Singh, Chandra Shekhar, HD Deve Gowda – see what happened to them. Sharad Pawar or even Pranab Mukherjee tried to look at them in the eye, look at the way they were discarded".
The prime minister was trying to do multiple things at the same time. At one level, he was driving home the message that Congress is an elitist party that cannot tolerate the rising to power of someone from the fringes of the society. At the same time, he was also reminding the audience how one dynasty has permanently monopolised power within the Congress and has treated any challenger to their monopoly with contempt.
The citing of stalwarts, all past leaders of great eminence, was meant to inform a demographically young nation that Congress has become synonymous with one family -- with the larger message being that the country is suffering an unnatural ‘no-confidence motion’ inflicted on it by a party that has “neither the numbers or majority”, but still is desperate for power.
Modi next took on the epithet bhaagidar, which the Congress president had used earlier in the day to allege that the prime minister has received kickbacks in the Rafale jets deal. Modi gave it back with interest, claiming that he is indeed a chowkidar and a bhaagidar, but not a thekedar (contractor) or a saudagar (trader)’ like the Congress. In a rhetorical flourish, he claimed that he was indeed a bhaagidar (partner) of the poor in their poverty, the partner of the youth in their dreams, the partner of Indians in their quest for a better life, the partner the marginalised in their struggle.
The rhetorical craft of turning defence into an offensive posture isn’t new to Modi. This was one part of his strategy. He employed several strategies during his speech and played little games within games during a span of over one and a half hours. For instance, he placed Rahul’s gesture of a sudden ‘hug’ to the prime minister in the morning within the context of someone who can’t wait to grab the seat that Modi is seated on.
In the morning, the voting was not over, the debate was also not over one member comes running to me saying- Utho Utho Utho...
What is his hurry to come to power?
Let me tell this member it is the people who elected us. That is how we have come here: PM @narendramodi
— PMO India (@PMOIndia) July 20, 2018
“It is the people who have put us in power, and we should have faith in democracy. Who gets to sit in the chair will be decided by the people,” he said. “We are here because we have the numbers, we are here because we have the people's mandate. Do not mock people's choice,” he reminded the Opposition. “They said I won’t be able to stand for 15 minutes if one member starts his speech,” said the prime minister in an oblique reference to Rahul Gandhi’s rhetoric. “Here I am, standing on the floor of the House.
Main yahan khada bhi hun aur jo chaar saal kaam kare hain uspe adha bhi hun: PM Modi in Lok Sabha pic.twitter.com/ZuVeEQWo9R
— ANI (@ANI) July 20, 2018
One of the biggest talking points since the morning was Rahul Gandhi’s series of allegations against the prime minister on Rafale deal. While addressing the Lok Sabha during his speech, the Congress president had claimed that French president Emmanuel Macron in a private conversation revealed to him that there was no “secret clause” in the deal. Rahul had gone on to insinuate that Modi is corrupted, and had profited from the ‘dodgy deal’ the details of which he is now trying to hide.
Before the prime minister could respond, the Congress president received a setback when France’s Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs in a press statement in the evening, clarified that: “France and India concluded in 2008 a security agreement, which legally binds the two States to protect the classified information provided by the partner, that could impact security and operational capabilities of the defence equipment of India or France.”
Statement by the Spokesperson of the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs on the Security agreement, between France and India. https://t.co/EUMfhK3aML
— Alexandre Ziegler (@FranceinIndia) July 20, 2018
The BJP took the chance to rip apart Rahul’s claims on the floor of the House and amid the buzz of a privilege motion, the ruling party demanded an apology from the Congress president.
Modi took it up during one part of his speech, clarifying that it was a “government to government” deal which was well-negotiated and carried out between two governments, and “loose talks” about a national security issue is “juvenile” and dangerous. Modi would repeat this charge of childishness against Rahul on Doka La and ‘surgical strikes’. The obvious attempt was a reinforcement of Rahul Gandhi’s “immature” image that the Congress president is desperate to shake off.
The rest of the prime minister’s speech carried detailed rebuttals of Opposition’s charges on “lack of development” as he went on to give an account of all the development and structural initiatives that he has taken over the course of four years.
Interestingly, he appeared reticent about directly attacking Chandra Babu Naidu, despite TDP’s provocative and boorish behaviour during his speech but was more interested in blaming TDP’s woes on the way the state was bifurcated by Congress. Modi was keeping his options open.
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Updated Date: Jul 21, 2018 15:42:02 IST