12:33 am - Sunday November 8, 2015

Prime Minister Narendra Modi strikes conciliatory note

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached out to the Opposition on Wednesday, saying he sought their cooperation in turning development into a social movement.

In a bid to be conciliatory, he said – as he made his first speech to both Houses of Parliament responding to the debate on the President’s address – that he welcomed the criticism that had emanated from the Opposition benches as it would ensure that the government did not succumb to arrogance: it also meant that that there were great expectations of his government. “Without your support, my mandate is incomplete. So I will seek your support and guidance as we proceed,” Mr. Modi said in the Rajya Sabha, recalling that it was A.B. Vajpayee who led an Indian-delegation to the U.N. when P.V. Narasimha Rao was the Prime Minister.

Occasionally in the course of his 45-minute speech, delivered in Hindi, he struck a lighter note: “One year is more than enough to do politics. “Let’s work together in the first four years and do politics in the last year.”

Speaking at length on the need to tackle poverty, he said his government would pay special attention to Dalits, tribal people and Muslims – this should not be considered as appeasement: “I believe if one organ of the body remains weak, the whole can’t be called healthy? We are committed to this [progress of minorities]. We don’t see it as appeasement.”

Responding to the Congress’s criticism of the slogan Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat , he gave the decades-old slogan of India being a land of unity in diversity a new spin, saying it meant people and parties should exchange the language of division for the language of unity.

In his speech, he invoked the names of several freedom fighters, promising to build an India of their dreams. If Gandhiji’s name was taken repeatedly, with a promise to commemorate the Mahatma’s 150th birth anniversary in 2019 with a “Swacch Bharat (Clean India), Bhagat Singh and Rajguru, too, were mentioned: “By 2022, there should be nobody in the country who does not have a house with water, electricity, toilet. This is the minimum we can do.”

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