NEW DELHI -- Blessed with the gift of the gab, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had no trouble ripping into the Opposition for not allowing Parliament to function, but he failed to address the burning questions around the suicide of Rohith Vemula and the
Jawharlal Nehru University row, which have preoccupied the country, this year.
While people are waiting to hear the Prime Minister's thoughts on free speech, nationalism and discrimination in universities, Modi's speech in Lok Sabha today was more about taking potshots at his political rivals and their past governance.
The Opposition was blocking parliament because of an "inferiority complex," he said.
Vemula was a Dalit student who committed suicide at the University of Hyderabad on Jan 16, allegedly due to active discrimination by the authorities of the educational institution, and the interference of Bharatiya Janata Party leaders. The JNU row involves the arrest of students on the charge of sedition for allegedly raising "anti-national" slogans and organizing an event to mark the third anniversary of Afzal Guru's execution.
In the first week of the Budget Session, lawmakers engaged in an exhaustive debate on these two episodes, but the Prime Minister has kept silent.
It was necessary for the Prime Minister to scold lawmakers for blocking necessary work in Parliament to further their political agenda, but he was also expected to speak on issues surrounding Vemula and JNU student Kanhaiya Kumar, which have sparked debate and protests across the country.
To admonish the Opposition for blocking the passage of key bills, the Prime Minister evoked the Holy Trinity of the Congress Party - Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, and Rajiv Gandhi - and their pearls of wisdom.
In an obvious knock to Congress Party Vice President Rahul Gandhi, he said, "Some people's age increases, but their wisdom does not increase."
Gandhi's speech in Lok Sabha on Wednesday was peppered with jibes at the Prime Minister and his polices. The Congress Party leader characterized Modi as a leader who was in love with his own voice and opinions, and so formidable that even senior leaders did not dare question him.
While Gandhi's jibes suit a opposition leader, Modi's speech today simply lacked the substance expected from the Prime Minister, especially when the country is in turmoil over questions fundamental to the character of its democracy
Striking a sarcastic tone, Modi said that his government had so much to do because the Congress Party in 60 years had failed to deal with poverty, or make toilets for Indians.
While calling for lawmakers to end their "tu-tu-main-main" in the last few minutes of his speech, Modi transitioned into a mellow tone. "I am new, you are more experienced. Let us work together to build this country," he said.
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