President Droupadi Murmu with Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi proceeds to address the joint sitting of Parliament on the opening day of the Budget Session, in New Delhi. (PTI Photo/Kamal Kishore
New Delhi: The Budget Session of Parliament began on Tuesday with President Droupadi Murmu’s address to a joint sitting of both Houses at Central Hall. This was her first address in Parliament after taking the oath as the country’s President.
In her maiden address, President Murmu talked about the efforts made by the government to improve the quality of life of India’s people due to which "every Indian’s confidence is at its peak and the world’s outlook towards India has changed". She thanked people for electing a stable government for two consecutive terms and said the country has a government that was "stable, fearless, decisive", giving a thrust to "virasat" (heritage) as well as "vikas" (development) and working for all classes without any discrimination. Her speech also talked about India’s military might and diplomatic outreach.
"My decisive government has always kept the country’s interest paramount and shown the will power to completely transform the policies and strategies when required. From the surgical strike to a firm crackdown on terrorism, from a befitting response to every misadventure from the LoC to the LAC, from the abrogation of Article 370 to triple talaq, my government has been recognised as a decisive government," said President Murmu.
This is the last full Budget of the government before it goes for a general election in 2024. Congress leader Sonia Gandhi was among the Opposition leaders who attended the presidential address on Tuesday even as Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) led by K. Chandrasekhar Rao and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) of Arvind Kejriwal boycotted it.
While the BJP and its allies lauded Ms Murmu’s speech, the Opposition led by the Congress termed it as an election address. "The President doesn’t contest elections but it looks like the BJP government is conducting its next election campaign through her. The entire speech was an election speech trying to praise the government for everything it has done and skipping over the bits it hasn’t done so well," said Congress Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor.
In her speech, the President mentioned the number of schemes launched by the government and the steps taken to improve the economy. The Covid-19 pandemic and the efforts by the government to control the damage done by it also found mention. She said in these nine years, basic facilities have been made available to a large segment of the population "who had waited for these for decades", and the modern infrastructure "that we long aspired for" has started coming up in the country.
She mentioned rural electricity, drinking water supply, housing for all, road connectivity, etc as some of the schemes that have gone a long way in improving the life of people in India. She added her government had chosen the path of consolidating heritage and giving priority to development.
President Murmu also mentioned the top leadership’s special focus to get rid of "mega scams" and corruption in government schemes. "Today the debate is no longer about policy paralysis, instead India is being recognised for its rapid development and the far-sightedness of her decisions. That is why we have now become the fifth largest economy in the world, up from the 10th spot," she said.
The President further said that the "stable and decisive government" has enabled India to deal with the biggest calamity in 100 years and the situation that arose thereafter. "Wherever in the world there is political instability, those countries are beset with severe crises today. But India is in a much better position than the rest of the world due to the decisions taken by my government in the national interest," she said.
With regard to India assuming the presidency of G-20, the President said India was trying to find collective solutions to the current global challenges in collaboration with the G-20 member countries. "My government does not want to limit it to just one diplomatic programme. Rather, it is an opportunity to showcase India’s potential and culture, through the efforts of the entire country. Therefore, G-20 meetings are being held in dozens of cities across the country throughout the year," she said.
Talking about India’s global outreach, the President said: "We have expanded our role keeping our national interests paramount. Whether it was the earthquake in Afghanistan or the crisis in Sri Lanka, we were the first to provide humanitarian aid. The goodwill that India has generated benefited us during the crises in Afghanistan and Ukraine. We safely evacuated our distressed citizens from these countries. By helping the citizens of many other countries, India again displayed its humanitarian gesture to the world."
She added the world is now acknowledging India’s tough stand on terrorism and the government is also sincerely presenting the concerns related to cyber security before the world.
Meanwhile, friendly vibes were visible among different party MPs during the joint sitting of Parliament. Several leaders from across the aisle approached Mrs Sonia Gandhi and exchanged pleasantries, as she sat alone in her designated front row bench in the Central Hall. Several of her party members are stuck in Srinagar due to bad weather, after attending an event to mark the culmination of the Bharat Jodo Yatra. Mrs Gandhi was also greeted by President Droupadi Murmu and vice-president Jagdeep Dhankhar.
Putting political rivalries aside, AIADMK leader M. Thambi Durai and DMK’s T.R. Baalu were seen smiling and hugging each other while having a conversation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.