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In debut speech as LoP, Rahul Gandhi tears into Modi govt over Manipur crisis, Agnipath scheme, NEET row & MSP issue

In a dramatic exchange where he locked horns with PM Modi on several counts, Gandhi stirred a hornet’s nest when he said, while pointing at the BJP, that those that claim to be Hindus, are turning violent.
Last Updated : 01 July 2024, 15:41 IST

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New Delhi: In his first speech in the Lok Sabha after taking over as the Leader of Opposition, Rahul Gandhi on Monday participated in the debate on the Motion of Thanks to the President’s address and launched a scathing attack on Modi government’s performance over the last ten years.

Holding a picture of Lord Shiva, Rahul accused the BJP of spreading "fear and hate." Pointing a figure at the treasury benches, Gandhi said that, "those who call themselves Hindus are spreading violence”, evoking sharp responses from both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah. 

Rising up to speak, Gandhi took a copy of the Constitution and said that the Opposition fought in the last elections to defend it.

"In the last decade, there has been a full scale attack on the idea of India, anyone who opposed the BJP’s ideas suffered … I personally suffered .. There were 20 cases filed against me, my house was taken away," Gandhi said, adding that in these times, his only refuge was Lord Shiva.

As he displayed a photo of the deity, Speaker Om Birla said pictures cannot be allowed into the House. 

Attacking the government on several counts, Gandhi used religious symbolism to say that the Opposition stands for three fundamental ideas of India – truthfulness, fearlessness and non-violence – while the ruling BJP does not.

"The abhaya mudra teaches us ‘darao mat, daro mat’ (do not scare and don’t be scared) … it teaches us to dispel fear. Hinduism, Islam, and Sikhism talk about courage. In Islam, when someone prays, they take ‘abhay mudra’ with both hands… The abhaya mudra is the symbol of the Congress," Gandhi said.

In a dramatic exchange where he locked horns with PM Modi on several counts, Gandhi stirred a hornet’s nest when he said, while pointing at the BJP, that those that claim to be Hindus, are turning violent.

"The BJP claims to be Hindus but spreads fear 24/7, a Hindu can never spread fear or hatred,” he asserted, leading to interventions by the Prime Minister and Home Minister. In all, eight Cabinet ministers interjected him at several points during his speech that clocked nearly two hours. 

Gandhi said that even Hindus do not accept the BJP. "In Ayodhya, the birthplace of Lord Ram, sent the BJP a message … the message is sitting here,” Gandhi said, pointing at Faizabad MP, Samajwadi Party’s Awadesh Prasad.

“The people of Ayodhya lost their land, and they were not allowed into the inauguration of the Ram Temple. PM Modi wanted to fight from Ayodhya but surveyors advised him not to, so he shifted to Varanasi, where he had a narrow escape,” Gandhi added. 

Gandhi also attacked the BJP over the Manipur strife and spoke of a woman who saw a relative being shot to death. “Despite our criticisms and urges, the prime minister has not stepped in Manipur, it is as if the state does not belong to India; the home minister has not gone to Manipur either,” Gandhi said.

He said that the BJP also stole statehood from Jammu and Kashmir. “Aapko sharam aani chahiye (you should be ashamed of yourselves),” Gandhi asserted. 

He said that farmers were termed as “terrorists” for asking for MSP with legal guarantees and farm loan waivers. Rahul’s speech on farmers led to agriculture minister Shivraj Chouhan interjecting him on MSP.

Gandhi added that women are suffering due to price rise, and that the army is now reeling under the aftereffects of Agniveer. He also spoke about minorities and said they represent India in all fields and stand by the country like a rock. 

Speaking on the NEET controversy, Gandhi said, "A student can be a topper but he or she cannot get into a medical college if they do not have money, because NEET is a professional exam which has now been turned into a commercial exam. Students today do not believe in the exam because they are convinced that it is designed for the rich people, designed to create a quota or a passage for them into the system."

He added that the Opposition had urged the government to let them help resolve this “institutional failure” but that the government did not relent. 

Gandhi also touched upon his new role as LoP and said that he does not represent the Congress alone, but all the parties in the Opposition.

“Whether we like it or not, the country has elected you into the government. I would say to you that as individual members, as the Cabinet, do not spread fear or hatred, listen to the people. When the Opposition asks you for a debate, have it. We are not your enemies, we are here to help you,” Gandhi said. 

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Published 01 July 2024, 15:41 IST

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