New Delhi: In an emphatic defence of the nine-month-old government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hit out at the opposition for targeting him over his foreign trips, policies on MNREGA, black money, and land acquisition bill. But more significantly, he sent out strong clear message on religious tolerance, saying India’s strength lay in its diversity.
Coming a day ahead of the BJP-led government’s second budget - expected to unleash big bang reforms - Modi’s speech in Lok Sabha appeared signify that he was in control as he didn’t shy away from touching on all topics that were talked about his government so far.
Prime Minister sounded out a conciliatory message to the agitating farming community that he was ready to make change in land bill if there was anything in it against the farmers. "In an era of co-operative federalism, can we become arrogant? Should we not listen to the chief ministers of the states... "if there is anything against farmers in the Land Acquisition Bill, the government is ready to change it," PM said.
As incidents and statements of religious intolerance hogged headlines in the past a few months, Modi sought to send out an unambiguous message.
Saying that country can only function within the framework of constitution, Modi said, “no one has a right to take law in his own hands. No one has right to discriminate against other on basis on religion. Everyone has a right to walk together, and how will this government function is my responsibility.”
Seeking to silence those who make ridiculous comments based on religion, PM said he doesn’t want to waste his time on them, but show them what was his government’s commitment. "My government's only religion is 'India first', my government's only religious book is 'Indian Constitution', our only devotion is 'Bharat Bhakti' and our only prayer is 'welfare of all'," he said in Lok Sabha while replying to motion on thanks to President's Address.
Modi quoted first Sikh Guru Nanak, “The one God is pervading in all. Beholding him in all, Nanak is delighted,” to talk about India’s strength in diversity. He also referred to his Patna rally where bomb blasts took place to talk about Hindu-Muslim unity. “We want all religions to prosper", he added.
The other significant takeaways from his 70-minute-long speech included his sharp attack on the opposition particularly the Congress. Modi was at his caustic best, as he rubbed it in.
“There were rumours that MNERGA will be shut. You may say that I do not have knowledge in some areas...But at least I do have political acumen. My political acumen tells me never shut MNREGA. I will never make that mistake... MNREGA is a living monument of your failures," Modi said pointing at opposition benches where Sonia Gandhi was seated.
He argued that even after 60 years poor were still made to dig pits through MNREGA.
Referring to ‘jokes’ on his numerous foreign trips, he said he went there as PMs have prior assignments. On all his trips abroad, Modi said he had welfare of poor in mind as he looked for ways to help them – from a scienctist developing high nutrients banana, and pulses to meeting a nobel laureate researching on stem cell.
Talking about black money, Prime Minister promised action against those having accounts with such money. He said not only politicians, but others also have such accounts.
"Nobody having black money will be spared... We are not going to digress from this path... Nobody should say we are vindictive. We have made a promise and I assure the House, action will be taken," he said adding that his government achievement is that now the issue was debated across the country.
"A corruption-free system can be put in place.... I want that this issue should not remain confined to political debate, otherwise we will remain engaged in 'tu tu mai mai' and 'kiski shirt zyada safed hai' (whose shirt is more white).... If we keep trading charges only, those indulging in making money will continue to do so," Modi said seeking cooperation of the opposition parties.
The Prime Minister appeared to be in no mood to leave any topic untouched. People were talking about Delhi results. I say why ignore results from Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Rajasthan which went in favour of the BJP, he added referring to recent civic polls in these states.