We may be lacking in numbers, but we will make up for it with our work
I welcome you to this meeting. It has been quite some time since we have met. I would like to begin with some thoughts on Kashmir.
Recent events in the Valley are tragic and pose a grave challenge to the country. The loss of life and suffering of our brothers and sisters, whether they are civilian or of the armed forces, is a source of deep anguish. There can be no compromise on national security.
Militants must be dealt with firmly. Yet we must introspect and ask ourselves what has driven scores of young people to such levels of anger and protest, even violence. Can we say in all honesty that we have responded with sincerity to their pleas? They are our people, we cannot forsake them. Dr. Manmohan Singh’s government had done a tremendous amount of good work, along with a serious effort to open and sustain a dialogue. Sadly, this is no longer the case. We must respond with restraint and sensitivity to the harsh realities of recent months.
Not doing so is fraught with dangerous long-term consequences. Our party’s position is clear and consistent: while borders cannot be redrawn, much can and must be done within the framework of our constitution. Friends, in the last few months, we have witnessed how the Modi government’s project of destabilizing institutions and polarizing our society has played out with renewed vigour to the detriment of constitutional values. The Modi government has mistaken its parliamentary majority for a license to impose its narrow ideology on our people. It seems to have forgotten the parliamentary majority can never be a reason to abandon the principles and practice of constitutionalism. In the recently concluded Rajya Sabha elections in Haryana, we saw how in a never-before-act, pens in a polling booth were mysteriously replaced. On the one hand the Prime Minister claims the Constitution to be sacred for his government. On the other, he has no compunction in trampling upon it, first in Arunachal Pradesh and then in Uttarakhand. Fortunately, an independent and fearless judiciary has reminded him about Constitutional norms and values. But we canno afford to be complacent since similar tactics are still being attempted in other Congress ruled States.
Friends, deception is not new to this ruling party. They are skilled at ignoring facts, at propagating false claims and orchestrating unsubstantiated charges against the opposition, especially the Congress Party. As they complete two years in office, they have sought to create a bubble of achievement. But what exactly have they achieved? Job creation has not only been at its lowest in six years but retrenchment of industrial workers and loss of tens of thousands of jobs in the export manufacturing sector has added to the misery of the youth and the poor. There has been a continuous decline in exports over the last 18 months. Contrary to claims that India has turned power surplus, power shortages continue to be endemic.
Prices of essential commodities, especially food items are at an all time high. The Modi Government’s hollow claims on inflation have been exposed recently by no less than the Reserve Bank Governor. Their inaction in helping farmers affected by acute drought despite the Supreme Court’s intervention is deplorable. The widespread distress in rural areas seems to be of no concern to the Modi-government.
The Panchayat Raj Ministry established by the UPA is being starved of funds and slowly being driven into extinction. BJP ruled states are dismantling the edifice of the third tier of democracy by taking away the autonomy of urban and rural local bodies.
The Modi Government is defying labour unions and reducing the security of their savings.
The recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission have done injustice to the government employees and armed forces resulting in discontent. The Modi-government has snatched away the rights of adivasis, dalits and other traditional forest dwellers under the Forest Rights Act, 2006 and is systematically weakening and subverting environmental laws. Brutal atrocities against scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and minorities are continuing with impunity and shaming us all. The recent shocking incident in Gujarat where four Dalit youths were savagely beaten and humiliated publicly is just one example of the social terror this government condones. There is constant confrontation with the judiciary, civil society and student organizations, and debate is being stifled.
And when it comes to growth and GDP figures that they tout, questions on their veracity are raised even by their own party leaders. The BJP blocked every important FDI initiative of the UPA government. Yet, now, it has put in place a free for all policy even in a sensitive area like defence.
And how does the Modi-government explain the incoherence and inconsistency of its foreign policy despite the Prime Minister’s frequent travels abroad, his equally frequent embraces of world leaders and impromptu birthday calls!! Its policy towards Pakistan oscillates between from one extreme to the other. Relations with Nepal are at an all-time low. Its ill-prepared policy on the NSG memberships has exposed us to a snub and is in complete contrast to what, the UPA, achieved in 2008. The Modi government seems to be changing our country’s stand on security and defence issues, departing radically from policies that have stood the test of time over the decades.
In the last session, amongst other issues, we had raised the Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC) scam which the government has tried hard to sweep under the carpet. At a time when banks are struggling with their NPAs, it is unacceptable that almost Rs. 20,000 crore was lent to this company when it was known that its claims on the size of gas reserves were bogus.
The opaqueness of the Modigovernment is decision making and brazen promotion of cronyism has cast a dark shadow on its integrity. And what of the other scandals that have been exposed and are sought to be buried in BJP-run States like Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, and in the Prime Minister’s own State Gujarat? And yet the claims that he is curbing corruption.
Friends, we are presented with a government that is anchored in slick marketing events, in glib marketing slogans, in repackaging, in embellishment and exaggeration. We may be lacking in numbers, but we will make up for it with our work and we will continue to demand accountability through Parliament. I count upon each one of you to be present, to be active, to be aggressive and hold the government and the ministers to their words and actions.