New Delhi: Sparks flew on the first day of the debate on the no-trust motion moved by the Congress with the Opposition asserting that it was forced to do so to break Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘maun vrat’ (vow of silence) on Manipur and the treasury benches hitting back saying it was a no-trust vote against a “poor person’s son” who has worked for the welfare of the people.
The opposition leaders at various points during the debate also invoked BJP veteran Atal Bihari Vajpayee to target the Prime Minister and remind Modi of ‘rajdharma’.
Initiating the debate on the motion in the Lok Sabha, Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi raised a series of questions on Manipur, asking why the Prime Minister had not visited the state, why it took 80 days to break the silence on the state and why he had not sacked Chief Minister N Biren Singh.
Launching a scathing attack, the Congress MP from Assam said it was a matter of grave concern that a government that talked about “one India” had created “two Manipurs — one living in hills and the other in the valley”.
He also demanded that Modi should visit Manipur, lead an all-party delegation to the north-eastern state, and make sincere efforts to restore peace by meeting various organisations there.
The opposition grouping Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) was forced to bring the no-confidence motion as this was never about numbers but about justice for Manipur, he said.
“If Manipur is burning, the entire India is burning, if Manipur is divided, the country is divided. It was our demand that as the leader of the country, Prime Minister Modi should come to the House and speak about Manipur. However, he kept a ‘maun vrat’ (vow of silence) that he will neither speak in the Lok Sabha nor in the Rajya Sabha,” the Congress MP from Assam said.
“Through the no-confidence motion we want to break his vow of silence,” he said.
Intervening in the debate, Union minister Kiren Rijiju said the Congress and other opposition parties have brought the no-confidence motion at a “wrong time and in a wrong manner.” At a time when Prime Minister Modi has emerged as the world leader and the country was marching ahead to become a developed nation by 2047, there was no need for such a motion against the government, the minister said.
Instead, the opposition should join hands with the government to celebrate ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ and work towards achieving the target set by the prime minister for the next 25 years, the minister added.
“Congress and opposition parties will regret bringing in the no-confidence motion at the wrong time and in a wrong manner,” the minister said.
Gogoi said he would like to ask the prime minister why he had not gone to Manipur when Rahul Gandhi had gone as also Home Minister Shah and the minister of state for home (Nityanand Rai).
As the lower house took up the motion moved by Gogoi, there were heated exchanges between the opposition and treasury benches after Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi wondered why Rahul Gandhi’s name as lead speaker was withdrawn last minute.
On Wednesday, top ministers including Home Minister Amit Shah, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani and Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia are likely to intervene in the debate, parliamentary sources said.
Referring to the issues facing the northeast, Rijiju said it was the Modi government that paid special focus on the region and today rail lines are being laid in several parts of the region. The Prime Minister wants the northeast to become an engine of growth, he added.
He said former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hardly met MPs from the northeastern states though he himself represented Assam in the Rajya Sabha.
Rijiju attributed the current problems in Manipur to the negligent attitude of the previous Congress governments.
He asserted that “When our government was formed, in the first cabinet meeting, Modi ji made a group and said that every 15 days, five cabinet ministers and seven ministers of state must tour the Northeast. It is still going on, all the ministers sitting here have toured the northeast.” Starting the debate from the government’s side, BJP MP Nishikant Dubey said the Prime Minister has remarked that this is not a no-confidence motion against the government but was brought by the opposition to test the confidence of its own alliance members in each other.
Dubey took a swipe at the opposition parties, saying they were fighting among themselves and calling themselves INDIA.
In his remarks, Dubey also raised the issue of the Supreme Court staying Rahul Gandhi’s conviction in the ‘Modi surname’ remark case following which his Lok Sabha membership was restored.
“There was such a brouhaha over Rahul Gandhi’s return to Parliament but where had he gone…he was here in the Budget session. The Supreme Court has not acquitted him. He has also said he will not say sorry……He says I am not (VD) Savarkar, you can never be Savarkar,” Dubey said.
In a dig at Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, who were both present in the House, Dubey said she was following the traditional Indian woman’s way of “Bete ko set karna hai, damaad ko bhent karna hai (Has to set her son, and gift to her son-in-law)”.
In another dig at Rahul Gandhi, Dubey also said that the former Congress president was expected to initiate the debate but did not do so last minute as “probably he was not prepared and he got up late”.
Dubey also named various non-Congress parties of the INDIA bloc to claim that they had been targeted by the Congress in the past but they were now siding with the grand old party against the NDA.
The BJP MP said when the Prime Minister talks about ‘parivaarvaad’ it does not mean that someone cannot take up the profession of his or her parents but about the dynastic approach.
“This no-confidence motion is against the son of the poor, the no-confidence motion is against the person who gave people houses, the no-confidence motion is against the person who gave drinking water to the people, the no-confidence motion is against the person who gave toilets to the people, the no-confidence motion is against the person who tried to bring light in everyone’s home,” the BJP leader said.
“The arguments made by them would be to disrobe (cheerharan) the policies of the Modi government like the cheerharan of Draupadi…When Draupadi’s ‘cheerharan’ was happening, Dhritrashtra, Bhishma Pitamah, Dronacharya, Arjun and Yudhishtr, were all ‘maun (silent)’ … when they do ‘cheerharan’ of Modi, a person who works for the welfare of the people and they (opposition benches) are ‘maun’, none of them would survive in 2024, none of them would come back,” Dubey said.
He also asserted that the BJP-led NDA will get more than 400 seats in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
The BJD opposed the no-confidence motion against the government on the Manipur violence, saying what happened in the state is due to “legacy issues” running back several decades.
Participating in the debate, Biju Janata Dal MP Pinaki Misra said it is out of the question for the BJD to support any motion brought by the Congress.
Several Opposition MPs also demanded the resignation of Manipur Chief Minister Biren Singh over the violence in the state.
TMC MP Saugata Roy charged that Prime Minister Modi is destroying federalism in the country.
NCP MP Supriya Sule also demanded the resignation of Singh.
“What happened in Manipur is shameful. I demand the chief minister should resign immediately. Can you allow this to happen and shame the women of this country? Ask your conscience how you can support this government. How can you allow this?”she said. Among others who participated in the debate included Samajwadi Party’s Dimple Yadav, CPI (M) A M Arif, BJP’s Narayan Rane, Congress’ Manish Tiwari, and Amravati MP Navneet Rana.
During the debate, Shiv Sena’s Shrikant Shinde, son of Maharashtra chief minister Eknath Shinde, recited Hanuman Chalisa while attacking Uddhav Thackeray.