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The opposition in the Lok Sabha sought to corner the government on Monday over tackling Chinese influence in the region, inflation and growing communal atmosphere in the country.

During the debate on the President’s address to Parliament, Opposition parties also alleged that the government was misleading people on development.

“Now that elections are here, you have gone in the shelter of Shri Ram. We all believe in Ram but do not patent him. Do not make him a tool for elections. Mahatma Gandhi said Ram Rajya is not Hindu Raj but a divine kingdom. He said for me Ram and Rahim are one. It is good that the Ram Temple has been built. But now there is a discussion on Gyanvapi mosque, Mathura. There are 20 crore Muslims in the country. It will be better if you stop scaring them,” Congress leader of the House Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said.

He said the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) has taken a note of this and India should think about its relations with Islamic nations.

Chowdhury called the Presidential address a BJP “election manifesto” and asked why it did not make a single mention of the country’s security concerns.

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“I wish to ask the Defence Minister what is the situation in Ladakh. You said you will establish status quo ante. Where is it? Day by day the situation in Ladakh is worsening. About 2,000 sq km have been encroached. There have been 20 rounds of military-level talks and many diplomatic talks. Today, the grazers are not allowed to take their herd on their own land. We have been demanding a discussion on China… What is happening in Maldives? There are slogans of ‘India out’ in elections there. Where was Ajit Doval?” Chowdhury said.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh took exception to Chowdhury’s questions and said, “I disagree with everything he has said about Sino-India relations. I condemn it… India is not weak anymore… India knows how to give a befitting reply. It is not good to put down one’s own country in the House for no apparent reason. If it was their government, we would stand by them for the country.”

To this, Chowdhury said, “For the country, even we stand with you. You please fight. But you are not fighting. You are scared. That is why we are worried.”

Chowdhury also questioned the government’s narrative on development.

“What is viksit bharat, I do not know. When we will become viksit bharat, I do not know. I am eager to know the parameters of viksit bharat. To confuse people they keep talking about fifth largest and third largest economy. But please tell people what is the per capita GDP. In 2023, our per capita GDP is $2,600. Do you know what is the percapita GDP of the two countries you want to leave behind? Germany’s per capita GDP is $52,800 and of Japan it is $30,900. In per capita income, we are placed at 142nd rank,” he said.

“You are saying development is happening. But in 2023, we are placed 111th in the Global Hunger Index. You say you are fighting corruption, but Corruption Perception Index says we are placed 93rd. Among least happy nations, India ranks 126 out of 136 nations. World Press Freedom Index says India is placed at 161 out of 180 countries,” he said.

Chowdhury said the government was in election mode. “In 2014, they said we will bring back black money and deposit Rs 25 lakh in every account. After elections they said it was a jumla. In 2019, 40 of our soldiers died in Pulwama attack. The (J&K) Governor at the time, Satyapal Malik, said it happened because of a lapse on part of the government. Then you launched the Balakot strike, but we got no information about what happened. International agencies said no significant damage was inflicted in Balakot,” he said.

NK Premchandran of RSP expressed disappointment at the President not mentioning minorities.

“It is a political speech. Every section of society was mentioned in the speech, but not even a word was spoken about the minorities of the country. You are talking about inclusive development. What about the minorities? There was also total omission of the problems faced by the labour class. The 10 years of the Modi government have been totally against the labour class. This ease of doing business is at the cost of labour. The secular-democratic fabric of the country is under threat,” he said.

He also raised the issue of unemployment, inflation and farmers’ income.

Shiv Sena (Uddhav) MP Arvind Sawant raised the issue of Manipur.

“The President spoke about culture and civilisation. But our civilisation was shamed in Manipur and the President did not mention a word about it. I feel sad. She spoke about Nari Shakti Vandan, but at the same time our sports women were humiliated, we must not forget. You say 25% people have been pulled out of poverty but you are giving free ration to 80 crore people. There is a paradox,” he said.

He also raised the issue of NCLT operation where he said companies with Rs 46,000 crore debt are being settled for Rs 4,500 crore and the banks agree just to favour a certain corporate.

On Ram Temple, he said, “The person who never went there (Ayodhya) is now claiming Ram Temple. It was done by karsevaks, we must not forget.”

R Unnithan of the Congress said all cardinal principles of the Constitution are being demolished under the Modi government.

“Power structure has become oligarchic and individual freedoms are muzzled. Federalism has been practically nullified. The judiciary, EC and CIC are substantially enfeebled and Parliament has been reduced to an ornamental institution for mechanical law making. The consecration of the Ram Temple (on January 22) by PM Narendra Modi marks the virtual demise of secularism. January 22 marked the official demise of secularism in India. It is also the death anniversary of George Jacob Holyoake who coined the word secularism,” he said.

Nama Nagshwar Rao of the BRS said, “The President spoke about 25% people being pulled out of poverty. But our per capita income is among the lowest in the world. Our GDP growth is still in single digits. China was behind us and it has become a developed country.”

Pratima Mondal of Trinamool Congress also raised the issue of Manipur. “It is astonishing there is no mention of Manipur and the humiliation suffered by women sportspersons. The country witnessed the rapist-murders of Bilkis Bano being garlanded. Being the Constitutional head, a woman and a mother, madam President should have raised her voice. She was also silent on inflation,” she said.

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