Amid incessant sloganeering by Opposition MPs, PM Narendra Modi delivered his speech on the motion of thanks to the President’s address in the Lok Sabha.
After the predictable digging up of the past to berate the Congress, Modi trotted out catchphrases that have become synonymous with the BJP-led NDA government. The prime minister listed achievements of virtually every ministry and from all spheres of country’s development. Crores of electricity connections, millions of LPG connections, thousands of crores of direct-cash-transfers, and several other accomplishments were cited, sometimes in incoherent free word association. But undercutting the entire speech was the criticism of the past governments. However, Modi’s ministers like Jitender Singh were seen napping many times through the hour-long speech by the prime minister.
Image: Lok Sabha TV
“Yeh NPA aap ka paap," Modi thundered at the Opposition benches. The slogans continued: “Dramabazi bandh karo, jumlebazi bandh karo”. Ironically, the PM sought to portray himself and his government as victims of "hit and run politics". He said, "These days parties make imaginary charges against me and run away… I have been listening to your lies quietly for the sake of the country." This attempt at playing the victim appears laughable if one remembers the wild allegations that Modi had made (during the Gujarat Assembly elections ) against former PM Manmohan Singh for attending a dinner where a former foreign minister of Pakistan was also present.
I have to tell the entire nation about the NPA mess our previous Government created: PM @narendramodi— PMO India (@PMOIndia) February 7, 2018
But that irony was not betrayed by the PM. Attacking once again the RSS’s most reviled adversary, India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, Modi replayed the old RSS trope: “Had Sardar Patel been India’s first prime minister, a part of Kashmir would not have been under control of Pakistan."
Congress president Rahul Gandhi speaking minutes after the speech ended, put the PM in the dock for making a "campaign speech, a political speech" instead of answering important questions pertaining to the Rafale fighter aircraft deal, waiving-off farmers’ loans, and the crisis of jobs in the country.
The prime minister even raked up the internal politics of the Congress surrounding the elevation of Nehru as PM. Giving away his complete ignorance of history, Modi also blamed Nehru and the Congress for Partition, evoking jeering from his MPs. This needless desk-thumping (by the BJP MPs) and slandering the previous governments (by the PM) only strengthens the perception that the BJP always lives in the past and uses and misuses it to cover their own follies and disastrous decisions like demonetisation and the badly implemented GST.
It also shows the complete disregard that the BJP and particularly PM Modi has for the progress India has made in the past seven decades.
Discarding the hopes of millions of Indian youths who voted him to power in 2014, Modi chose not to the mention the problem of unemployment. Instead, in a reference that reflects how disconnected the PM is from the harsh reality, the he said, “I speak to many IAS officers and sometimes ask them if their children too are preparing for civil services. But they tell me, ‘no sir, children nowadays want to do something of their own, they want to open start-ups’”. This one comment in the PM’s hour-long speech stands out for the complete insensitivity and disconnect from the woes that afflict India’s unemployed citizens.
The government seems to have gone into campaign mode ahead of the Assembly elections in several states this year. The 2019 General Elections too seems to have motivated both the Budget 2018-19, and the President’s address: none of them laid out any specific or time-bound plans for the next year, but were replete with attacks on the Congress which is expected to give it a tough fight in states like Karnataka, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh.