While senior ministers in the Narendra Modi government have ruled out an early Lok Sabha election, the Prime Minister on Wednesday launched an attack on the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and the Congress party that was reminiscent of his public speeches during his election campaign in the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
The over hour-long speech, amid much slogan shouting by the Opposition and ally Telugu Desam Party (TDP), provided sufficient hints about the PM’s electoral narrative in the run up to the Lok Sabha polls, the assembly elections in Karnataka in April-May, and the assembly elections in the key northern states of Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
The PM attributed much of the maladies in the country to the years of Congress rule. He said the Congress party had a golden opportunity in the years after the independence to take the country forward. However, it busied itself in serving one family, the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, instead of the country.
In his speech, the PM seemed conscious that the middle class is disappointed with this year's Union Budget. He also responded to the criticism his government has faced on the question of its “failure” to fulfill to commitment to generate 20 million jobs a year and double farmer incomes.
Modi repeatedly brought up the issue of corruption. He said the Congress was now opposed his government’s policies, particularly implementation of Aadhaar and goods and service tax, because these steps have hurt the interests of middlemen.
“When the corrupt and middlemen are out of work, obviously the Congress will be unhappy,” the PM said.
Without naming Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who was sitting in the House, the PM alleged the Congress leader had indulged in defaming the country during his visits abroad. “You were talking to the Chinese when the country was fighting the battle of Doklam…You questioned the bravery of our soldiers by questioning the surgical strike,” Modi said.
The PM accused the Congress of having been smallminded in governing the country during its long years in power. He didn’t spare first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, and blamed Mahatma Gandhi, but without naming the father of the nation, for preferring Nehru to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, as the first prime minister of independent India.
However, all through his speech, the PM was harangued by Telugu Desam Party (TDP) members. The TDP members had trooped into the well of the House to shout slogans to demand that the government fulfill its promises made to Andhra Pradesh.
The PM said the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government carved out Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh seamlessly, but the UPA-led Congress government made a mess of the division of Telangana from Andhra Pradesh because its objective was not national interest but winning elections.
Digging into history, the PM sought to attribute the problems in Andhra Pradesh on to Rajiv Gandhi, who as a newly appointed Congress general secretary had landed at the Begumpet airport where he had insulted the then Congress chief minister of the state T Anjaiah. Modi stressed that Anjaiah was a Dalit, and the insult to the chief minister led to the birth of NT Rama Rao’s TDP, which threw out the Congress in the subsequent election on the plank of Telugu self-respect.
On the mounting non-performing assets of public sector banks, the PM said this was a legacy issue his government has inherited from the Congress-led UPA. He said the UPA government made banks give loans to its “favourites”.
“You will have to give an account (of your evil deeds) to the country,” Modi said. He criticised the Congress’s “hit and run politics”. “The lotus (BJP’s election symbol) will bloom brighter the more mud you throw on us,” the PM said. BJP members gave him a standing ovation as he concluded his 90-minute long speech.
Earlier in his speech, the PM dwelled on the issue of corruption for significant time. At a time when the Congress has asked him questions on the Rafale fighter jet deal, the PM said his government, within months of coming to power, had renegotiated a gas supply deal with Qatar and save the country Rs 80 billion (Rs 8,000 crore).
Modi said it was during the last few years that India’s judiciary has sent four former chief minister in prison on charges of corruption. “It is our commitment that people who have looted the country will have to return the money to the country. Nothing can deter from fulfilling this commitment,” he said.
The PM said attempts have been made to spread misinformation and pessimism in the middle classes. He said the five per cent entry level income tax in India is the lowest across the world. Modi said the middle class desired better infrastructure, roads, schools and colleges for its children, and his government was trying to deliver that. The middle classes have taken to the social media to express their disappointment at the Modi government’s Budget.
Modi identified the benefits of the GST. He detailed the steps taken to create employment, but seemed on the defensive. He said it was now an era of entrepreneurship, not about government providing jobs. Modi repeated the claim from the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) that 7 million jobs have been created in 2017, which has been questioned by the Congress party. He also pointed to data from state governments, like Odisha, to claim job generation.
The PM listed the achievements of his government across the sectors – road construction, laying of railway tracks, electricity generation, aviation, etc. The PM accused the opposition of playing politics on the issue of farm distress, and listed the several schemes his government has initiated to benefit farmers.