NEW DELHI, Sep 18: Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge used poetry and humour to take swipes at the government today, saying nothing will be accomplished by changing names, and went on to recall how first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s “inclusive” approach of involving opposition parties had led to the laying of a strong foundation for the Constitution.
The leader of opposition (LoP) in the Rajya Sabha slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi for neither finding time to attend Parliament nor to visit ethnic strife-torn Manipur.
Participating in a discussion on the country’s parliamentary journey on the opening day of a special parliamentary session, Kharge said the opposition tried hard to get Modi to speak on the ethnic violence in Manipur.
He said Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar too tried initiating a discussion in the House on Manipur. “The problem is that the prime minister does not even listen to you,” Kharge said, adding that whenever the opposition looks up to the chairman, he looks at the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders.
Dhankhar shot back, saying “main majboor nahin, majboot hoon (I am not helpless, I am strong)”.
Kharge opened his speech with a poem in Hindi.
“Badalna hai to halat badlo, aise naam badalne se kya hota hai? Dena hein to yuva ko rozgar do, sab ko berozgar karke kya hota hai? Dil ko thoda bada karke dekho, logon ko marne se kya hota hai? Kuch kar nahi sakte ho, kursi chor do, baat baat mein darane se kya hota hai?
“Apni hukumrani par guroor hai, logon ko darane se dhamkane se kya hota hai? Badalna hai to halat badlo, aise naam badalne se kya hota hai? Yahan se wahan jane mein kya aur honewala hai?” he said.
(“If you want to change something, change the situation, what will be accomplished by changing names? If you want to give something, give employment to youngsters, what will be accomplished by making everyone unemployed? Try becoming more magnanimous, what will be accomplished by killing people? If you cannot do anything, leave the chair, what will be accomplished by scaring people?”).
The strong foundation stones that support a structure are not visible to anyone and it is only the plaque on the wall that is seen, Kharge said in an apparent jibe at Modi, without naming him.
He also alleged that the government is focused on weakening the opposition by using central agencies, such as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
The Congress leader also expressed concern over the passage of several bills in a manner faster than the “bullet train”, without referring those to parliamentary standing committees.
“He (Modi) goes to every corner of the country, but why does he not visit Manipur? He should visit Manipur and see the pain and suffering of the people,” Kharge said.
Ethnic violence has gripped Manipur since May 3, he said, adding that people in the northeastern state are getting killed and houses are being set on fire. The Congress has sought a statement on the situation in Manipur, the LoP said.
Stating that Nehru had a big heart as he took the opposition along, he said the first prime minister of independent India used to meet opposition members to discuss key issues with them and take their views. He used to patiently listen to the debates in Parliament. In fact, he had inducted an opposition leader, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, in his cabinet, Kharge pointed out.
“What happens today? No one listens to us…. Now, he (Modi) does not enter the House,” he said, adding that Nehru believed that if the opposition was gaining in strength, there must have been some flaw as far as governance was concerned.
However, “there is a strong opposition now, but the ED and the CBI are being used to weaken them”, he alleged.
Kharge recalled that Nehru had laid the foundation of the Constitution, based on which Parliament is functioning.
“That was a time when everyone was taken along…. The foundation stones are not visible now, but the names on the plaque are seen,” he said and highlighted the efforts of B R Ambedkar, the chief architect of the Constitution.
It was during the Congress regime that efforts were made to strengthen democracy and keep the Constitution alive, Kharge said while lamenting that “we are now fighting to protect the Constitution”.
Several bills were passed in the old Parliament building in the last 75 years, as a result of which the country has changed, the Congress chief said. “We are cooperating, but at times, there are altercations,” he added.
Complaining about the prime minister not showing up in the Upper House to listen to the views of the opposition, Kharge said, “Everyone is watching what is happening today. The prime minister comes to Parliament occasionally. When he comes, he makes it an event and goes away.”
Responding to Kharge’s charge, Leader of the House Piyush Goyal said the Congress members walk out whenever the prime minister is in the House.
Kharge also criticised Modi for giving speeches outside, but not in Parliament.
He said former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee gave 21 speeches in the House during his term, while Manmohan Singh gave about 30 speeches. “The current prime minister spoke only twice, leaving aside the customary speeches, in the last nine years.” he added.
Dhankhar said customary speeches are also important. “I thought Kharge would have a complaint that why does the prime minister speak so much,” he said, adding that the Rajya Sabha Secretariat will have to check this and it shall inform the LoP in three days.
Kharge said, “Outside, he (Modi) speaks a lot. So much he speaks that we cannot digest it.”
The Congress leader urged the government to table the Women’s Reservation Bill in Parliament and highlighted the issue of unemployment, saying rising joblessness will destroy democracy in the country.
Kharge highlighted the small number of women lawmakers in Parliament, saying they accounted for only 14 per cent of the members in both Houses, while their percentage in the legislative assemblies is just 10.
The proportion of women MPs was just 5 per cent in the first Lok Sabha in 1952.
Kharge told the House that the proportion of women members has risen to 28 per cent from 2 per cent in the US Parliament while in Britain, it has jumped to 33 per cent from 3 per cent.
He complained to the chairman that the opposition does not get enough opportunities to put forth their views on various subjects inside the House and requested that the cameras inside Parliament, which live-telecast the proceedings, should focus equally on the opposition MPs when they are speaking.
“We do not get a chance outside. We get it here, so please let us have it,” he said. “You are our guardian. If there is any injustice against us, you are the one who is supposed to protect us. We are so few in number, if all of them (ruling NDA members) start attacking us, we will come to you,” the Congress leader added. (PTI)