Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra on Monday tore into the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government during the debate on the Motion of Thanks to the President’s address in the Lok Sabha. She brought up the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act, the National Register of Citizens and the government’s treatment of dissenters in another fiery speech.
Moitra said the BJP had betrayed citizens who voted who for them and was questioning the citizenship of the voters who had brought them to power. “As a government, you lack humility,” she said. Moitra reminded the BJP that it had the votes of only about 230 crore voters out of the country’s population of 1.3 billion, and that it should not go “beyond tenets of democracy” or “arrogate any extra-constitutional authority”.
Moitra, whose first speech in Parliament in June had caught people’s attention for pointing out the government’s “early signs of fascism”, said the NRC, CAA and National Population Register are “all tools in a Machiavellian design to first mark out and then disenfranchise and finally annihilate” Indians. “This is your biggest betrayal of those who voted for you. Nobody wants to be part of this ‘us versus them’ debate,” she said.
The BJP did not come to power only on votes of “the Hindu right” but because common people, the “middle-of-the-road voters”, cast aside any reservations they might have had about the party’s past and believed in your slogan ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’, “which they took to mean development for a united India”, she said. “You [BJP] have betrayed the young voters who were eagerly looking forward to their first job. You have betrayed small businessmen by your decision of demonetisation killing his market. You betrayed thousands of tribal people in Gujarat whose land you took to build a statue and to whom now you have given jobs as toilet cleaners.”
These middle-of-the-road voters who chose the BJP now cannot recognise the India they live in, Moitra said. “They cannot identify with the hate-filled, venomous invective that they see BJP members spew out publicly.”
The Trinamool lawmaker brought up a meeting of Holocaust survivors in Poland last week, and said that the survivors from the Auschwitz concentration camp, no more than 200 of them now, had one resounding message. “Auschwitz did not fall from the sky. Auschwitz happened because people were indifferent to the plight of others who professed a different faith from them. All Holocaust memorials serve as a reminder, not that it happened, but that it could happen again,” Moitra pressed on. “It happened not only because of those who pressed the gas chamber switch, but also those who sat back and watched when their neighbours were first marked out systematically and then dragged from their homes.”
Moitra also mentioned the BJP’s tendency to “demonise dissent”. “Today you have let a person who was banned by the Election Commission to come to the floor of the House and present the party’s manifesto for the Delhi elections.” She continued, “You speak of Ram and Yudhishtir, but what of dharma? You build false narratives where our dadis [grandmothers] become terrorists and our children become deshdrohis [traitors]. But today, citizens are finally standing up to these bullies.”
The Trinamool MP went on to tear into the government about the state of the economy and the BJP’s rubbishing of “every economic expert who doesn’t agree with you.” “The finance minister, on the floor of the House, says that the nominal GDP target is 10%. In the month of December, the Consumer Price Index was at 6.70%. Does that mean that the real GDP growth rate today is 3.30%? That is what the government is saying. Remember, when there is no integrity in statistics, little else remains,” she said.
Moitra, in her first speech in Parliament, had said the Constitution was under siege and that given the BJP’s large mandate, it was “necessary for the voices of dissent to be heard.” Moitra, a former investment banker, is a first-time MP from West Bengal’s Krishnanagar.
BJP election rhetoric and the CAA
The Bharatiya Janata Party has attempted to portray the upcoming Delhi elections as a referendum on the ongoing protests, particularly at Shaheen Bagh, where women have been sitting on protest since December 15, over several matters, particularly the Citizenship Amendment Act.
Senior leaders in the central government and the BJP have called the protestors at Shaheen Bagh terrorist sympathisers, and encouraged the shooting of anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protestors.
Hours after a gunman fired shots at protestors outside the Jamia Millia Islamia University on January 30, Union Home Minister Amit Shah asked Delhi voters at an election rally if they were “with Modi or Shaheen Bagh?” Earlier, Union minister Anurag Thakur had led a crowd of BJP supporters in chanting the slogan “shoot the traitors”. Lok Sabha BJP MP Parvesh Verma claimed protestors at Shaheen Bagh would “rape and kill your sisters and daughters”. These instances of hate speech prompted the Election Commission to ban Thakur and Verma from campaigning for a few days. On Saturday, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath appeared to suggest the use of bullets as a means to get dissenters on board.
The party has strongly backed its CAA and NRC moves, lashing out at anti-CAA protestors across the country. At least 26 people have died in the protests.