Home Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday delivered in what probably was his longest speech in parliament, listing out the achievements of the Modi government in the past nine years, taking on his political opponents and also clarifying all the efforts made by the centre in addressing the ethnic violence in Manipur.
Mr Shah, who spoke for a little over two hours, steered clear of politics over sexual crimes while speaking on Manipur, and did not bring up the number of rape cases in opposition-ruled states, calling the recent case of a rape and parading of a Manipur woman as shown by a viral video a “blot on humanity.”
His speech was broadly divided into three areas – achievements of the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, political rebuttals and Manipur – but the underlying tone was the emphasis on national security and the attention that the government had paid to three turbulent zones of the country, namely Jammu and Kashmir, Maoist violence areas and the north-east. He said the government had actually taken extra care to ensure these zones were free from conflict and on the path to progress.
The Home Minister’s speech was marked by the extent of preparation, nature of delivery and detailed rebuttals showing that he was aware of the questions opposition leaders had raised in the debate. He cited data for every claim, and contrasted every accomplishment with how the opposition handled the subject when in power.
The popularity of PM Modi remained the centre point of Mr Shah’s speech, which gave a glimpse into what PM Modi is likely to speak in parliament on Thursday.
Mr Shah said the BJP believed in “politics of performance and politics with principles,” and narrated how the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government lost the no-confidence motion by just one vote “because the party MPs did not compromise on their principles.”
The Manipur ethnic violence was exceptional as it was triggered by the Manipur High Court ordering the state government to determine whether the valley-majority Meiteis can be included under the Scheduled Tribes (ST) category. The order did not have feedback from the ST commission or the centre, as per the process.
It was also Mr Shah’s sharpest political attack when he said he has records to prove that the highest number of communal incidents have taken place under the rule of former Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru, Rajiv Gandhi and Indira Gandhi.
While speaking on Manipur, unlike the other areas, Mr Shah maintained a non-aggressive tone, somewhat also seeking support but also sounding optimistic to address the crisis. Just a few hours before he spoke in parliament, Mr Shah had a long meeting with Manipur’s hill-majority Kuki groups that had reached out to him for space in the state for mass burials.
In his speech, Mr Shah appealed to Kuki and Meitei groups to resolve their differences and work together for peace, an appeal that he also made to the opposition, but the opposition refused to agree to making such an appeal.
While on Jammu and Kashmir, he said the government – unlike the opposition – will not speak to the Hurriyat but to the youth, which is why terrorists are not being glorified after their deaths, the Home Minister added that only three districts now have presence of Maoist groups and the government is working on solving this issue.
From COVID-19 management to vaccines to rise in infrastructure projects and even farmers welfare, Mr Shah also listed out the government’s achievements, stopping briefly at the reference of direct-benefit transfer (DBT) when the opposition said it was the Congress that started it.
“Now you will say you said ‘garibi hatao‘ first? The problem with you is that you only spoke. We are the ones getting everything done,” the Home Minister said.
Mr Shah added that PM Modi has constantly monitored the happenings in Manipur, often waking him up with developments in the northeast state, and over 16 meetings in the last three months have been held.
From changing the DGP (police chief) to sending a security adviser, to ensuring essentials, CAPF (central cops) and army personnel to Manipur, the centre has been working with all its might since the first incident of violence was reported on May 3.
This, Mr Shah said, was contrary to how the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) handled Manipur when the state was constantly seeing blockades, and during times of severe conflict, it was only a Minister of State (MoS Rajesh Pilot) who was sent.
“Leave apart from the PM or minister, they would not even ask for a discussion then, and now they want the PM to speak,” Mr Shah said.
“I agree that there have been incidents of violence in Manipur. No one can support such incidents. Doing politics on these incidents is shameful. From day one I was ready for a discussion on the Manipur issue, but the opposition never wanted a discussion. The opposition doesn’t want me to speak, but they can’t silence me. 130 crore people have selected us, so they have to listen to us… During the past six years of our government, the need for curfew never rose,” the Home Minister said.
Mr Shah gave political responses to Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MP Supriya Sule on her allegations about the BJP “bringing down governments.” He said the NCP chief and her father Sharad Pawar was the first to do such an act when he brought down the Vasantdada Patil government.
Mr Shah gave a sharp rebuttal to Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi on the state government’s inaction with respect to crimes against women. Mr Shah said the government-led by Chief Minister N Biren Singh has been cooperating with the centre and complying with all interventions.
Earlier in the day, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi launched a scathing attack on PM Modi during the no-confidence motion debate in Lok Sabha today. Mr Gandhi said the government has left Manipur “divided and broken”.
Mr Shah also took on Mr Gandhi and said a “certain political leader has been launched for the last 13 years but has still not made it.” He specifically reminded the house about Kalavati Bandurkar, the widow of a farmer in Maharashtra, who Mr Gandhi visited at her home in 2008. “Does he even know how she is now? For women like Kalavati, it is Modi ji’s welfare schemes that have been the change,” Mr Shah said, and touched upon other matters such as corruption, appeasement and dynasty-led politics.
What stood out was the Home Minister’s confidence in the narration that flowed smoothly despite the length and also disruptions by the opposition. At one point he specifically told Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury that BJP will give him some time from their own share to speak, as “his own party has not listed him as a speaker and hence he was disturbing him now.”
The Home Minister said casualties in Manipur have been falling since violence erupted on May 3 and asked the opposition not to worsen the situation. “Lies were spread that the government did not want to discuss Manipur. We have nothing to hide.”
Mr Shah spoke about Mr Gandhi’s visit to Manipur and said the Congress leader insisted on visiting Churachandpur by road when the government had arranged a helicopter for him.
“The country saw the whole drama on TV. The next day, he went on to use the helicopter, but he couldn’t do that before because he wanted to showcase his protest. Such kind of politics shouldn’t be done in a time of crisis,” Mr Shah said.
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