New Delhi: The usually belligerent Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday wore a benign smile as he tore into the Narendra Modi dispensation in a calm and composed manner in the Lok Sabha, lambasting the Prime Minister on a slew of issues, right from the JNU row to the issue of black money to Pakistan policy as well as the “invisible” Naga peace accord. While launching this stinging attack, he even handled the incessant heckling by the Treasury benches with a calm demeanour.
Mr Gandhi seemed in total control during his speech in the Lok Sabha (as part of the discussion on the vote of thanks over the President’s speech). In a calculated attack, he took on the government on all the aforementioned issues turn by turn. He said Mr Modi brought a “Fair and Lovely Yojna” to convert black money into white and blamed him for destroying the UPA’s work against insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir and against terrorism.
Mr Gandhi also blamed the Prime Minister for releasing Pakistan from the small “cage” in which it was put after the 26/11 attacks by his sudden visit to Lahore. Reading out from brief notes he had written on some pieces of paper, a visibly relaxed and clean-shaven Mr Gandhi, the Congress MP from Amethi, claimed the Prime Minister had made a great show of resolving the Naga problem, but the Naga peace accord which the government had signed amid full media glare was now nowhere to be seen. When a BJP MP quipped whether he had read the accord, Congress president Sonia Gandhi quickly retorted, “There is no accord.”
Amid thumping of benches by Congress MPs who were present in full strength during Mr Gandhi’s half-hour speech in the Lower House, the young leader sportingly took the jibes made by the Treasury benches where Union ministers Jitendra Singh, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Harsh Vardhan and Jayant Sinha were also present.
Mr Gandhi claimed that when the Prime Minister contacted the Opposition leaders intimating them about the government solving the Naga problem by signing an accord, none in the state governments or the Central government knew. He said although the issue had “huge ramifications”, neither the chief minister of Nagaland nor the chief ministers of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh knew a word about it.
“The home ministry and the intelligence agency, even the home minister had no idea. Fascinating. Now it (the accord) has vanished into thin air. Gone with the wind. Bye-bye accord... Is it not an insult to the institutions?” he quipped.
He criticised the Prime Minister for being autocratic while dealing with issues of governance. “You have been taught by your teachers in the RSS that there is only one truth in the universe, your own; that nobody else’s opinion matters in the entire universe. This is all you have shown us in the last two years. The Prime Minister cannot run the country on only his opinion. The country is not the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is not the country,” Mr Gandhi emphasised.
On the JNU row, Mr Gandhi asserted that Mr Kanhaiya Kumar had not uttered a single word which was against the law but still he was behind bars while the real culprits were still roaming free. He also accused the government of “crushing” the voice of dalit scholar Rohith Vemula.
“What is JNU? Sixty per cent of the students belong to dalits, minorities and OBCs. Forty per cent of them come from a poor background. Why are you after JNU? Because dalits and adivasis study there and you don’t want them to grow. But we will not let this happen. You cannot crush JNU,” he said. He rapped Mr Modi’s silence on the JNU row, especially the attack on journalists and teachers in court. In acerbic remarks on his style of functioning, he said Mr Modi did not listen to anyone’s opinion, including that of his ministers and party MPs, on issues like his visit to Pakistan and the Naga accord.
Picking on the one-time compliance window announced in the Budget as a “Fair and Lovely” scheme, Mr Gandhi said this was nothing but a move to turn black money into white. “The finance minister has announced a new scheme — Fair and Lovely scheme. In this scheme, any thief of the country can convert his black money into white. If anyone indulges in corruption, he can convert his black money into white using the Fair and Lovely scheme,” he said.
Appealing to the Prime Minister to reach out to the Opposition, the Congress vice-president made it clear that the Opposition does not consider the government an “enemy” and “does not hate you”.
Taking the floor in the Lok Sabha during the debate on the motion of thanks to the President’s address, Mr Gandhi, in a speech that was often interrupted by BJP members, accused Mr Modi of “single-handedly destroying” six years of UPA work to put Pakistan into a small cage after the 26/11 terror strikes, by visiting Pakistan.
He charged the Prime Minister with “releasing” Pakistan from a “cage” for which the UPA had invested thousands of hours of hard work and all-round consultations. “The work done by the UPA has made us all proud. We conducted panchayat elections, created self-help groups which generated employment. We had broken the back of insurgency in Kashmir completely. And what did the Prime Minister do? He decided to have a cup of tea with Nawaz Sharif without any vision. He decided to take a detour to Pakistan. Just like the Naga accord. He did not bother to consult anyone... the people in intelligence, the diplomats. Perhaps he did not even talk to (external affairs minister) Sushmaji (Swaraj). Only his opinion matters. He single-handedly destroyed the six years of work done by the UPA,” Mr Gandhi said.
Insisting that the then UPA government had put Pakistan into a “small cage” after 26/11, Mr Gandhi said this was achieved by UPA by investing by working tirelessly and taking into account diverse opinion ranging from Opposition leaders, diplomats, armed forces and intelligence officers. With such Herculean efforts, he said, India managed to “isolate” Pakistan internationally, turn it into a “pariah nation” and succeeded in exposing it as a “global supporter of terrorism”....