NEW DELHI: Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad today virtually countered Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying the contributions of not only the poor, but even well-off persons like Motilal Nehru who gave up their riches for the freedom struggle, cannot be forgotten.
While felicitating new Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu in the Rajya Sabha, Azad, without referring to Modi's remarks that the poor had risen to high constitutional posts reflected the strength of democracy, said the rich, as well as others, had given the country a Constitution enabling persons from a humble background to become the President, the Vice President, the Prime Minister and Supreme Court judges.
But "it was not a question of rich or poor". The country cannot forget the contributions made by the rich who gave up their wealth for the country and spent years in jail for participating in the freedom struggle, the Leader of the Opposition said.
Azad said the rise of grassroot-level persons like Sitaram Yechury and Naidu to high positions was the biggest achievement of democracy and many who weren't landlords or educated families had reached the zenith of their profession.
Modi in his felicitation had termed it as tribute to democracy that people from humble backgrounds rose to the highest constitutional positions.
Speaking immediately after him, Azad said Nehru was a big lawyer who earned Rs 7-10 crore in today's currency terms but gave away his wealth.
Mahatma Gandhi too was a big lawyer who gave away even his clothes and family for the country, he said.
"We should not forget them and their contribution. Those who were well-off and educated, who gave up their riches, families and children for freedom of India," he said and went on to name Sardar Patel, Subhash Chandra Bose, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Maulana Azad.
They gave the country a Constitution that allowed "anyone to become President, Vice President, Prime Minister or Supreme Court Judge. I salute them," he said.
Even during the debate on 75th anniversary of the Quit India movement on August 9, Azad had recalled the contributions made by Gandhi, Jawarhal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar and several others.
In contrast, Leader of the House in Rajya Sabha and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had not named any of them.
Modi too had skipped naming Nehru, who had moved the resolution at a Congress session on August 9, 1942 calling for British to leave India. Even Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan had not mentioned him in her speeches.