It is difficult to defend the indefensible without resorting to evasions, distortions, misinterpretations, half-truths and falsehood. Prime Minister Narendra Modi used all these and some rhetoric to defend the motion of thanks to the President for his address to Parliament last week. The President’s address was itself an exercise which misinterpreted a statement of Gandhiji to justify the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act. It had also ignored some major concerns of the country, like the ongoing economic slowdown. The government showed its unconcern for the protests against the CAA and for decorum in public life by fielding as its first speaker to initiate the debate on the President’s address an MP, Parvesh Verma, who had been penalised by the Election Commission for his vile comments on the Shaheen Bagh protests in Delhi.
The Prime Minister’s speech also showed the same lack of concern for public sentiments, constitutional values and history. The Prime Minister’s main argument was that it was wrong to protest against the CAA and that such protests would lead to anarchy. He chose not to recognise the democratic right of citizens to protest against the government’s actions and laws. He also repeated the wrong formulation that the CAA is not against any Indian citizen, ignoring the fact that it goes against the constitutional idea of citizenship in the country. He even selectively quoted from a letter written by Jawaharlal Nehru to justify the CAA, again ignoring the view of the first Prime Minister, clearly stated on many occasions and in the Nehru-Liaquat Pact, that citizenship should be “irrespective of religion.’’ Modi himself resorted to misinformation which he accused the Opposition of spreading, and unfairly accused it of acting like Pakistan by creating “an imagined fear.’’ He was also less than truthful about the National Population Register (NPR), which he said is “a routine administrative exercise,’’ but had in the past been openly linked to a National Register of Citizens (NRC) with all its dangerous consequences. It is an irony that Modi had to, though wrongly, take the support of Nehru, who has been an object of hate for him, to defend his position. But he also revised history to his convenience by claiming that the country was partitioned for Nehru to become Prime Minister. There was also irony in Narendra Modi claiming that “Gandhiji is our life’’ when just two days before that his party MP Ananth Kumar Hegde had questioned the role of Gandhiji in the country’s freedom struggle and dismissed it as a staged drama. A Prime Minister should not use deception, misinformation, and fake news to talk to people, but unfortunately Modi employed all of them in ample measure in his speech.
In the last few years what has been evident is the failure of the saffron ministers in curbing major national problems such as employment and economic crisis. However, it seems to not have deterred the spirits of the BJP leaders to utterly go about making a fool of themselves in the intellectual and international arena. From Modi’s first email to clouds helping Air Force to evade radars, from cow urine curing cancer to punishing the tigers for eating cows; it seems the BJP leaders are graduating from their own unique universities.