Amit Shah’s maiden speech in Rajya Sabha and Ghulam Nabi Azad’s counter were both effective.
For those who still think the Westminster parliamentary system is the best and most effective form of democratic self-government for India, despite some of us who are convinced of the merits of a Presidential system as being more suited to Genus Indica, the quality of the two marquee Monday speeches in the Rajya Sabha should be a cause of some satisfaction. That they came in the back- drop of at times sonorous and pedestrian speeches or entirely superficial, television studio-style shouting matches that our legislatures have unfortunately been subject to in recent years, made both interventions all the more commendable. And even when BJP president Amit Shah and Congress veteran and Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad played to the gallery, it was pithy, on-point and not overdone.
Shah, delivering his first speech in the House of Elders as he initiated the debate on the Motion of Thanks for the President’s address to Parliament last week, made an impassioned plea for simultaneous polls from the panchayat to the parliamentary levels and did so with serious intent and without taking any pot-shots, as it were, at an emasculated and enfeebled Opposition across India which has borne the brunt of electoral routs since 2014, which would have been an easy thing to do. In fact, counting the cost to the country of India being in perpetual poll mode both in monetary terms and in bringing development work to a virtual standstill, he gestured to the Opposition benches in the best traditions of democracy to say: ‘Today, we are in power; tomorrow, you may come (to power) … yes, you can come (to power). Our mindset is not such that we will remain in power till eternity.” Given his reputation as a pugnacious, give-as-good-as-one-gets political leader that was rather disarming and he followed it up with an appeal for all to rise above party politics to ensure the nation’s interests are not damaged by competitive politics.
His factual delineation of the public welfare-use the monies that accrue to Government in the form of taxes are put to was a masterclass in taking the sting out of Opposition campaigns terming all taxes ‘dacoity’ and the Congress president’s characterization of the Goods and Services Tax as the Gabbar Singh Tax in the recent Gujarat Assembly poll campaign.
In response to Shah’s precise and structured speech, Azad was at his passionate, wide-ranging best and equally effective in his own way when he struck sentimental sweet spots. His focus on the atmosphere of “fear” in the country with businessmen and politicians being tracked and their phones tapped, the alleged use of the ED/I-T Department/NIA to “break political parties” and the Government having “reduced Opposition leaders to terrorists” struck a chord despite the inherent hyperbole given the strains of hyper-nationalism and the looking askance at the unconventional that do seem to have gained currency of late. His impassioned plea for “freedom of speech, freedom to socialize and freedom to do business” would certainly have found a sympathetic hearing among many who are not allowed these freedoms. And even his dig at the Prime Minister, who spoke of a New India after the Budget was presented, did not breach norms of propriety – “Give us back our old India of Gandhiji, where Hindus and Muslims gave blood for each other and there was no fear.”
Two very different narratives of an India which is far more than the sum of its parts, is our conclusion.
Courtesy: The Pioneer