The Great Indian Debate

As a citizen of India, who would be voting for the next general elections, I sat glued to my television set all day, watching the debate in progress. I sat to judge how every speaker spoke, and I now announce the winning team of the debate and not the trust vote.
One thing was clear, at least from the NDA’s side – this wasn’t about the Nuclear Agreement, which has been pushed to the wings now. The government’s overall performance took centrestage.

Well, so the winner of the debate clearly is … the United Progressive Alliance. To brief you on their speeches, I present the gist of a few speeches that I really enjoyed watching:

The Economy and the N-Agreement: Mr. Palaniappan Chidambaram

The day began with the speech of Finance Minister, P. Chidambaram, who began with announcing the UPA’s economic achievements of the past four years. He later explained how the current fiscal has been a watershed year for Indian agriculture, enumerating the record food grain production.

The hard-hitting part of his speech was the comparison between India and China on various fronts – which saw the Left leaders stand and protest (something that comes quite naturally to them). He made a below-the-belt statement that “there are some people in this country who do not want India to reach up to the levels of China” – ouch!

But his conclusion dealt with how the Left and the Right despite their contradictions on various fronts – economic policy, nuclear energy, strategic ties with the US – are voting together against the government.

Overall, a point-by-point, fact-by-fact analysis of the deal and of the general performance of the government was presented by him.

“I talk as an Indian” – Rahul Gandhi

I really couldn’t believe that this was his first major speech in parliament. Short, crisp and precise, Gandhi used his personal experience with families of Vidharbha well. It was rather amusing to see the BSP leaders erupt when Gandhi spoke to visiting a woman called Kalawati, as it sounded very similar to Mayawati! Ahem!

So Rahul conveniently called her Mrs. Kala thereafter.

However, the most noteworthy aspect of his speech was that it cut across the barriers of politics. He said he was speaking as an Indian and not as a representative of a political party. He also went on to thank Dr. Manmohan Singh and Mr. Vajpayee in the same strain, for understanding the energy crisis and looking for a solution. Obviously, this had the house stunned. This silence was broken when Rahul very cheekily asked the Opposition to “clap for this at least”!

Overall, a speech that symbolized the expectations of the youth (though he did admit he was too old to be a part of the youth – no midlife crisis after all!) by focusing on the country’s benefit, the country’s welfare vis-à-vis a political party’s!

From class to crass – Lalu Yadav

If Rahul Gandhi managed to get the house to laugh, could Mr. Yadav be far behind? In fact Rahul’s speech notwithstanding, can Lalu ever stop being himself? So here was Lalu again, cracking jokes at the expense of Mayawati, of the NDA, the Left and so on. A witty statement about how he didn’t mind the Left betraying him, but has reservations about it getting close to other parties brought the house down! He also made a strong rebuttal to Mayawati’s claims of the government using the CBI as a tool against her, saying he, despite being a Minister wasn’t freed off CBI’s cases against him! In another tongue-in-cheek remark, he remarked that everyone including Mayawati, Mulayam Yadav and Lalu himself wanted to be PM, but he is patient!

This speech didn’t deliver solid facts like that of Chidambaram, but I guess it provided the House and even some of us viewers who sat through the entire episode, the much-needed entertainment!

And then after this speech, as if to add the drama that a Television Reality Show may require, three BJP MPs threw out heaps of money into the well of the house, claiming they were bribed by Amar Singh and Ahmed Patel of the SP and Congress respectively! How genuine were these acquisitions only time will tell.

So, if I was to award anyone the ‘Best Speaker’, it would HAVE to be Mr. Omar Abdullah of the National Conference. Though he spoke for barely three minutes, his speech was perhaps the most effectual. Mincing no words, he censured the NDA as well as the Left for its lopsided policies and ideology. He spoke off how his conscience warned him to vote against the NDA government during the Godhra Riots, but he didn’t, and his conscience has still not forgiven him. He also exposed the two-faced policies of the Left, saying when he was with the NDA, they called him their biggest enemy, and today after parting ways with the UPA they called on him to unite the secular parties! In his speech, which seemed to be extempore, he spoke about the double standards of the BJP – who have destroyed the Babri Masjid which now was gone forever and instead, are creating a fuss over Amarnath. And he ended it fabulously with “as long as there are Muslims in Kashmir, the Amarnath Yatra will continue to happen!”

An extremely strong call, this stirred the Opposition out of its Manmohan-resign (a la Simon Go Back) stand, and definitely sent shock-waves to the Left politburo!

Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, even though he didn’t get to deliver his closing speech, due to the chaos which our MPs manage to create at very regular intervals, had a very strong speech ready. The speech – now posted on his official website – requests Advani, who is in is ripe old-age, to change his astrologer, if not for his own sake, at least for the sake of his country!

The trust-vote has definitely made Dr. Singh a stronger and more confident PM! What does the future hold in store for him? Will his party respect him more? Only time will tell.

Rohan Sandhu


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