Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday sought to rise above the acrimony that had marred the recently concluded election campaign to outline his government’s vision for the next five years. He said the government would run on the twin tracks of welfare of the poor and developing modern infrastructure.
In his reply in the Lok Sabha to the motion of thanks on the President’s address to Parliament, the PM said it was difficult to cure ailments of 70-years in a short period of five years, but his government “neither diverted nor diluted” from its goal to improve “ease of living” of the people. Appealing to all political parties to contribute to the building of a “new India, a modern India”, the PM spoke of the need for “paradigm shift” from the current centrality of fundamental rights to each citizen’s duties.
Modi said as the country was celebrating 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi this year and would be commemorating 75th anniversary of independence in 2022, and it was time to reawaken the “spirit” of the freedom struggle, particularly the five-year period from the Quit India Movement of 1942 to the attaining of independence in 1947, to shape the “country’s agenda”. “If the spirit of those times was people willing to die for the country, today we should be willing to live for the country,” the PM said in his hour-long speech. He said it was time to reach out to the people to inspire them to contribute to the building of a ‘new India’.
Modi did not directly refer to the drought affecting large parts of the country or joblessness, or to the economic slowdown and agrarian distress.
However, he did outline his government’s vision on each of these issues.
The PM said water scarcity was a big concern. Modi said he has constituted the new ‘Jal Shakti’ ministry with the purpose of addressing the issue and stressed the need for water conservation. Linking it to agricultural, the PM said sugarcane farmers could do well to adopt micro-irrigation for the crop.
Modi said farmers needed to shed obsolete techniques of farming. He said farmers needed handholding of the government, but also corporate investment into the agriculture sector to set up warehouses and cold storages to boost food processing industry. The PM said at his appeal farmers of the country had helped tide over the scarcity in production of pulses in 2014-15, and a similar effort to inspire them might help increase production of oilseeds.
On his government’s goal of making India a $5 trillion economy by 2024, the PM took a dig at its critics, stating that statistics could be used to prove any argument, but it is a “dream” that each one should contribute to help attain. Modi said is government’s ‘Make in India’ programme, despite the ridicule it has faced, would help achieve the objective and said defence exports could be the principal driver.
Alluding to his government’s commitment to help set up 50,000 start-ups in the country by 2024, the PM coined a new slogan. He said from now on the country should speak of not just ‘jai jawan, jai kisan, jai vigyan’ but also in the same breath of ‘jai anusandhan’, or 'victory to research'.
The PM, who led his party to a rare successive simple majority in the Lok Sabha, said the election results were the “fruit” of “five years of tapasya”. Pointing towards the Congress benches, where UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi sat, Modi said people voted for the BJP in 2014 to rid themselves of “them”, but the 2019 mandate was one of pro-incumbency.
Replying to some of the issues Congress leader in the House Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury had raised in his speech on Monday, particularly how the President’s address failed to acknowledge the contributions of the Congress governments, Modi said he was not competing with the “heights” that the Congress reached. “Our goal, our path is to connect with the roots. We are not competing with you,” he said, stating how the Congress has soared so high that it has lost sight of ground realities.
The PM said he was laying down a challenge (to the Congress) to show if from 2004 to 2014, the UPA governments ever praised Atal Bihari Vajpayee at any official function. Modi said Congress MPs uttered names of neither P V Narasimha Rao nor Manmohan Singh in their speeches during the motion of thanks.
“Only those have the right to pontificate who themselves give credit to others,” the PM said, stressing how Rao was not given a Bharat Ratna, neither was Singh after the completion of UPA 1 since neither were part of the (Gandhi) “family”. He said his government conferred Bharat Ratna on Pranab Mukherjee despite the former president having been associated with the Congress, but for his contributions to nation building.
On the Congress party’s contributions, Modi reminded people that today, June 25th, was when Emergency was imposed in 1975 to crush democracy and save one person. “The date should serve as a reminder to prevent a repeat,” he said.
On Chowdhury’s comment asking why Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi were not in jail if there were scams during the UPA years, Modi said that was the job of the judiciary. “We will not do anything out of ill will or to take revenge,” he said, but added that people who have got bail should “enjoy” their time outside jail.
In his speech, the PM acknowledged the contributions in national building of or quoted from not just Mahatma Gandhi, Ram Manohar Lohia, B.R. Ambedkar and Deendayal Upadhyaya, but also Jawaharlal Nehru. Modi asserted that within the short span of three weeks of his current government, it is already on the path to fulfill its commitments, including extending Rs 2,000 assistance to all farmers. The PM will speak in the Rajya Sabha on the motion on Wednesday afternoon.