Monday, July 15, 2024
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Rejuvenated INDIA bloc will find many loopholes in her address to joint session

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President Droupadi Murmu braves pitfalls in Modi govt’s narrative

By Sushil Kutty

President Droupadi Murmu must have known the moment she woke up that she would be mentioning “my government” again and again when she addresses the joint session of Parliament. It is another presidential chore — addressing joint sessions of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, reading out aloud the speech written for her by the government of the day which she did on June 27.
The President of India is restricted in choices. Addressing joint sessions of Parliament and speaking on behalf of “my government” is part of the deal. The President of India, even if she wants to, cannot speak her mind. The “my government” this time was the NDA government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. That is to say, the “my government” could have been a Rahul Gandhi-led INDI-Alliance government.
But it wasn’t and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s NDA government got a chance to stamp BJP’s agenda all over the President’s Address as the President adjusted to the flow of the script given to her. She spoke of the upcoming budget, which if it would be different from earlier Sitharaman budgets, would be scintillating.
Some of the words in the address reminded people of Modi wanting to “change the Constitution”. It also struck people that President Droupadi Murmu’s address had been weaponized to take on the suddenly empowered Opposition.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s frustration at not getting “abki baar 400 paar” has been on most everybody’s lips since June 4, election results day, and Modi’s alleged designs on the Constitution of India was cited as one of the more prominent reasons why Prime Minister Narendra Modi got “reduced to a minority”.
Realizing the hole he was in, the BJP picked on Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s “tanashahi 1975 Emergency” to hit back at the Congress. In both the narratives, the government and the opposition’s, the Constitution of India is the common factor. But the BJP had to go back in time, 49 years to be exact, and resurrect Indira Gandhi to accuse the Congress of doing the greatest harm to the Constitution, whereas Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a sitting duck right here and now.
If there was one thing which every opposition MP carried to Parliament in this 18th Lok Sabha, it was a slim hardcover of the Constitution of India. The majority of the Opposition MPs took the oath on the statute book, except AIMIM’s Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi who couldn’t get hold of a copy of the Constitution of Palestine.
Of course, President Murmu highlighted the Budget and the many historic steps in the offing, both economic and social, in her address. She spoke of the “speed of the reforms” and the “aspirations of people”.
She urged “healthy competition between states” — with what she called “the spirit of competitive-cooperative federalism”, repeating Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s favourite line that, “India has become the world’s fifth-largest economy.”
President Murmu spoke all that the NDA government wrote for her, which was basically Prime Minister Modi’s achievements during the 10 years of BJP rule when he was at the helm. It was about Modi 1:0 and Modi 2:0. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu had nothing to gloat about in the President’s Address. Their time will come next year if the NDA government is still around a year from today.
The “average 8 percent growth in the last 10 years” came in for mention in the President’s address as also the little nugget that this growth rate was achieved despite the Covid-19 pandemic and the international conflicts. “India alone is contributing 15 percent to global growth,” President Murmu told the joint session.
And when she spoke of the NEET, she couldn’t do anything else other than promising exemplary punishment to those behind the paper leak. With the Narendra Modi-led NDA government both tongue-tied and hog-tied, President Droupadi Murmu had to “my government” with a great deal less enthusiasm when she spoke on NEET.
The NEET UG-2024 mess and the controversy surrounding the Constitution of India, allegations that the BJP-led NDA government continued to be a threat to BR Ambedkar’s vision for India, left Prime Minister Narendra Modi little leeway to come up with a more uplifting Presidential Address for President Murmu to read aloud.
Whether the Modi government succeeded in mitigating his government’s role in the NEET paper leak will be known when the results for Jharkhand, Haryana and Maharashtra assembly election results are announced. Till then, the BJP will be on tenterhook. That the BJP is against government recruitments is known far and wide.
President Murmu served the Modi Government’s purpose when she raised the “imposition of Emergency in 1975”, noting that it was “the “biggest and darkest chapter” of Indian parliamentary history, what she referred to as “direct attack on the Constitution.” For the Modi government, this was sweet revenge. The INDI-Alliance’s continued attacks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his alleged designs on the Constitution had left the Prime Minister looking bloodless and pale. The “Constitution War” between the BJP and the INDIA bloc is not going to end anytime soon. (IPA Service)

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