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Questions unanswered

Looking beyond BJP’s victory, we need to analyse the recent Lok Sabha events in the context of the questions that were left unanswered by PM Modi

Friday, July 20, was quite an eventful day in Lok Sabha. In a debate that lasted 12 hours, the Opposition mounted a spirited attack and the treasury fought back with enthusiasm.

What was interesting to watch was the debate and the kind of questions that were put forward throughout the day, followed by what answers the Prime Minister gave to the criticism put forward. On that front, the PM’s speech was utterly disappointing. What was also disappointing was the hot-takes the media seemed to be giving through the day. I mean… seriously people, get a grip on yourself.

This piece is an attempt to cut through the rhetoric and drama — the hugs and the winks — to see whether our PM really answered any worthwhile questions.

The no-confidence motion which was finally accepted by the Lok Sabha Speaker was put in by Telugu Desam Party MP Kesineni Srinivas. Yes, the Indian National Congress also put in the motion, but there were other parties that did it too. Kesineni’s motion was accepted because his notice was received first by the secretariat.

While the BJP government sailed through that test, what was peculiar was that the PM, for all intents and purposes, did not answer many questions put forward by Opposition members.

Questions Modi was asked

A group of vigilant Parliament watchers got together, saw the whole debate and noted down all the pointed questions which were asked by members through the day. The objective was simple: find out how many of these the Prime Minister answers.
1. BJP promised special status to Andhra Pradesh in its manifesto, why wasn’t that promise fulfilled?

2. BJP government hasn’t released the money promised under special package to Andhra Pradesh, when will that happen?

3. Employment promises made by the government were not fulfilled. Why? Government says we have given jobs but we don’t have the data, what gives?

4. What has been the achievement of Digital India?

5. Rafale Deal: Is there a secret pact between France and India to not reveal the cost of the equipment being bought? Did the Defence Minister lie to the public? Why was the contract taken away from HAL and given to a businessman?

6. Why was the Doklam issue not raised during PM’s China summit (April 2018)?

7. PM Modi stays silent on mob lynching incidents, instead his minister garlands convicts. Why doesn’t the PM speak about it? Supreme Court recommended a strong law on lynching. What is the government’s stance on that?

8. What is the government doing about the killing of rationalists and journalists (Kalburgi & Lankesh)?
9. What have we achieved after Prime Minister’s multiple foreign tours?

10. 25 lakh jobs were wiped out due to Demonetisation and 99 per cent money came back. What did the government achieve from the exercise?

11. Why has the Minimum Support Price not been raised to 1.5 times of C2, as recommended by Swaminathan committee?
12. Telangana: PM should make an announcement in this house for allocation of funds to projects being constructed on the Godavari and Krishna Rivers. Additionally, assurances given earlier on the construction of Tribal University and Steel Factory were not fulfilled. What is the timeline for fulfilling these promises?

13. What is the government doing to keep price rise in control?

14. BJP promised to bring back black money but the deposits in Swiss Bank have increased. What does the PM have to say about that?

15. Government keeps shifting its goalposts – be it demonetisation, Digital India or black money. Where are the results to show for it? Government should make its “achievements” clear.

16. Jio Institute given Eminence tag based on presentation when everything has to be proven and shown to build a simple public school for children. Why this partiality?

17. Naga Accord: What happened to it and why is it being kept in suspended animation?

18. Why has the government not been able to make a simple amendment to the Lokpal act? Why hasn’t it appointed a Lokpal yet, despite SC ordering them to do so multiple times?

19. You promised to double farm income by 2022, what is the progress on that front?

20. What have you done to curb farmer suicides?

21. When will atrocities on SC/ST be reduced? When will the SC/ST act be strengthened?

22. Rupee has been losing value, what is the government doing to contain the fall?

23. Why haven’t you appointed a chief statistician yet?

24. What is the government doing to combat rising crime against women?

25. What is the government doing to reform the Collegium system? What are its plans for future Judicial Reforms?

In his 90-minute reply, the questions in bold are the only ones we heard PM Narendra Modi answering. Whether those answers were satisfactory or not is a different matter — it’s subjective — but even addressing these listed issues is worth noting.

To say that the PM’s speech was disappointing would be an understatement.

What is also strange is that we saw the PM taking jibes at the Congress and Rahul Gandhi, but we did not see him address the others who actually asked these questions. The only person he directly named was Jaydev Galla who initiated the no-confidence motion debate. It is usually good form to address the people who ask the questions you’re replying to. That did not happen.

Prime Minister’s response
After looking at the list of the major questions asked, here is a gist of what the PM touched upon during his speech:
1. What is the necessity to bring in this motion when the Opposition has no numbers, no issues, nothing at all going for it?
2. Jibe at Rahul Gandhi for making him get up and his eagerness to take over the PM’s seat.
3. Village electrification
4. Jan Dhan Yojana
5. Ujjwala Yojana
6. Insurance to farmers
7. Jibe at the Opposition for not believing his claim of doubling farmer income by 2022.
8. Soil Health Card
9. LED Bulb pricing and increased usage
10. Mudra Yojana has provided employment
11. Increased Digital Transactions (accompanied with a jibe on people who said illiteracy will not allow the poor to conduct digital transactions properly).
12. Ease of Doing Business Ranking
13. Savings to the tune of Rs 90,000 crore by use of technology in government schemes.
14. These savings are hurting the feelings of some people
15. Congress has no confidence on itself.
16. Congress speaks of Doklam, but Congress was caught meeting the Chinese.
17. Rafale issue was raised and both nations (France and India) had to issue statements. There is no proof to these allegations, truth is being twisted.
18. People who call Surgical Strike a Jumla strike need to stop insulting soldiers.
19. Congress has mistreated many leaders in the past (long list of names starting from Subhash Chandra Bose to Pranab Mukherjee).
20. How can a poor woman’s son like me meet your eyes?
21. I’m a “Chowkidar”, “Bhagidar” but not a “Saudagar” like you.
22. These people are emotionally blackmailing Dalit, backward, downtrodden and poor people.
23. When Andhra Pradesh split into two, TDP’s energies were wasted on opposing TRS. TRS, on the other hand, spent all energy on development.
24. We have to go by the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission and cannot give special status to Andhra Pradesh.
25. We have increased MSP of farmers by 1.5 times.
26. NPA problem started before 2014 and is the UPA government’s doing. We decided to clean it up and bring in laws to prevent this from happening in the future.
27. We couldn’t bring out a white-paper on the economy because what we found would disturb public order.
28. We have been working towards women empowerment & brought in a law to increase punishment against people who commit atrocities against women.
29. Every Panchayat in the country will be connected through the Internet.
30. Lots of misinformation is being spread about employment. In the Organised sector, 45 lakh people have newly subscribed to EPFO in last 9 months. (He continued to provide information about new Chartered Accountants in the market, new businesses, unorganised sector employment.)
31. I invite the Opposition to once again bring in a no-confidence motion in 2024.
The points in bold can be considered as issues PM Modi responded to after they were raised by Members of Parliament. Special mention for Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Anurag Thakur who intervened regarding the Rafale deal and Home Minister Rajnath Singh who addressed the mob-lynching incidents by condemning them and asking state governments to deal with the problem appropriately.
Coming back to the PM, it was peculiar that he did not mention demonetisation even once, nor did he mention Aadhaar while giving the savings figure. After looking at his speech, we got a basic overview of what issues the BJP government is going to talk about in the run-up to 2019 elections.
If we look beyond the hug, wink and general rhetoric from both sides, it’s easy to figure out that the Opposition did ask some tough questions and got very few answers in return.

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