Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday took on the Congress during his speech in the Rajya Sabha. “I fail to understand why some people feel bad when India improves its ease of business rankings,” Modi said. “The Congress wants the India of the Emergency, Bofors, chopper scams.”

The prime minister said that he too wanted “Mahatma Gandhi’s India”, one without the Congress.

  “I also want Mahatma Gandhi’s India, because when the country got freedom, Gandhi had said ‘now we don’t need the Congress’. Congress-free India is not Modi’s idea, it is Gandhi’s idea. That’s what we want too. When you say you don’t want New India, what you are saying is you need India of the Emergency. The India where newspapers were censored...Is that the India you want?” 

— Narendra Modi in the Rajya Sabha

Modi said there is a lot that needs to be done in the healthcare sector. “Ghulam Nabi Azad mentioned Ayushman Bharat in his speech and compared it to the models tried in Britain and the United States,” Modi said. “This is wrong...It is possible that ideas that failed in other countries can work in our nation and vice-versa.” He invited all Opposition parties to give suggestions to improve the healthcare scheme, which the government had announced in the new Budget.

The prime minister said his government was not a “name-changer” like the Opposition had accused him of, but it was an “aim changer”. “We work hard and have ushered in a paradigm shift in the working of the government. Innovative projects are being thought about and completed in a time-bound manner.”

Modi said it was the Congress’ culture to take credit for various schemes in the country. “You complain that I don’t give enough credit to your party and its legacy. Well, putting various projects on the backburner is your legacy and I give you credit for that,” he said.

He cited Aadhaar as an example of schemes the Congress tries to take credit for. “Let me remind them about a debate in the Rajya Sabha in 1998 and what Lal Krishna Advani said. It is in his speech that you will find the genesis of Aadhaar,” Modi added.

As soon as he spoke on the Aadhaar scheme, Congress leader Renuka Chowdhury disrupted his speech with a loud guffaw and Rajya Sabha Chairperson Venkaiah Naidu expunged her remarks. He asked the media not to report the “unruly behaviour and loose talk”.

The prime minister said the Opposition has mocked the Centre’s work, including Swachh Bharat, Make In India, the surgical strikes by the Army and International Yoga Day. “You are free to mock as you please, but why are you blocking the bill for the Other Backward Classes Commission? Why are you blocking Triple Talaq Bill? Are you not sensitive to the aspirations of the OBCs?” He also claimed the Opposition had “sent Hindu men to jail for marrying twice” but that they had a “problem sending a Muslim man to jail”. He asked the Congress why it did not introduce a law against triple talaq during its rule.

Besides this, Modi also pitched for simultaneous elections again. He said that Assembly elections in four states were scheduled for 2019. In the Lok Sabha elections in 2009, more than Rs 1,000 crore was spent, while in general elections in 2014, over Rs 4,000 crore was spent in poll expenses. “The Assembly elections that followed the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, at least Rs 3,000 crore was spent in poll expenses,” he said. “Let us have a constructive discussion on holding simultaneous Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections in the various states.”

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel

While addressing the Lower House earlier in the day, Modi had said that if Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel had been made the first prime minister of the country instead of Jawaharlal Nehru, the whole of Kashmir would have been part of India. “Every Indian is paying the price of the poison infested by the Congress,” the prime minister told the Lok Sabha. In his Rajya Sabha speech, Modi said the Congress used Sardar Vallabhai Patel’s name and pictures while campaigning for the Assembly elections in Gujarat. “Sadly, one week after the results Sardar Patel was missing in Congress posters,” he said.