Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Every time you criticise Modi govt, you are termed anti-national, says Shashi Tharoor


PTI, May 27, 2024, 8:40 PM IST

Chandigarh: Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Monday said whenever people criticise the Narendra Modi government, they are accused of being anti-national and claimed there is an effort to “delegitimise dissent”.

The Congress leader drew a parallel between the regimes led by India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the present dispensation led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

He said Nehru, whose death anniversary is being observed today, was somebody who said democracy has to be instilled and encouraged in the people of India.

Referring to Modi, Tharoor said a ‘chaiwala’ could become the country’s prime minister because of the democratic institutions and values laid down by Nehru more than 17 years ago.

“In a democracy, we have the right to challenge and criticise the government. But every time you criticise the government you are accused of being an anti-national,” Tharoor, who was accompanied by former Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, said.

“That means your criticism is no longer legitimate. You are dubbed anti-Hindu and anti-national, what kind of talk is this,” Tharoor, who reached here after campaigning in Punjab for his party candidates, told a news conference.

He said in the ongoing Lok Sabha polls, “We have seen this kind of language being used that divides the country.”

“Why this kind of abuse is being applied to people is in an effort to delegitimise dissent,” he said.

Tharoor said he has been campaigning with Baghel for the Congress and I.N.D.I.A. bloc candidates in other states as well. We believe that on June 4 the government is going to change. People want change, he said.

About Nehru, Tharoor said, “Today is his 60th death anniversary. He made contributions to creating and building up our democracy”.

“In 1947, our country got independence amidst the trauma of partition, millions were displaced and so many lives were lost. There were flames of partition and communal violence. And many people (at that time) said the only solution may be dictatorship to control the disastrous situation,” said Tharoor.

He said Nehru refused and said we believe in democracy and we will fight for India’s democracy.

“A year later, Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated and two years later Sardar Patel also passed away. There was no one to challenge Jawaharlal Nehru. He could have taken the country in a very different direction. But he chose instead to stress the importance of our democracy, to give importance to democratic institutions that were just born and nurtured.

“He was somebody who said democracy has to be instilled and encouraged in people of India,” Tharoor said.

Referring to Modi, he said, “I can say with pride if a ‘chaiwala’ could become Prime Minister, it is because of the democratic institutions and values laid down and instilled by our first Prime Minister over 17 years”.

Baghel also said democracy has taken strong roots in this country and Nehru contributed in a big way towards that.

When asked that BJP was claiming to win 400 seats, Tharoor said some of their leaders had earlier said they needed 400 seats, a two-thirds majority, to change the Constitution.

The Constitution has been amended earlier too, but that is with consultation with all parties. They want 400 seats to change it whether others agree or not, he said.

Tharoor also said the “violation” of the “Constitution’s spirit” has taken place during the last 10 years.

“Autonomous institutions have been hollowed up under the present government,” he alleged.

Institutions like the Central Bureau of Investigation, Income Tax Department, and Enforcement Directorate under the government have been weaponised to harass people and target political opponents while parliament has become “a notice board for government’s decisions”, alleged the Thiruvananthapuram MP.

During UPA’s time, 84 per cent of bills were sent to parliamentary committees and introduced in the House after due consultation and after their recommendations. During BJP’s time only 16 per cent bills were sent. They want parliament to be a rubber stamp, he said, adding “Such politics is against our democracy”.

He also said that Modi does not speak about issues like inflation and unemployment.

About the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party, who are part of the INDIA bloc but fighting separately in Punjab, Tharoor said the alliance was going to work on a state-to-state basis.

Citing the example of his own state Kerala, Tharoor said, “For 55 years, communists and us have been opposing each other”. But right next door in Tamil Nadu, the CPI, CPM, Congress and DMK are all together.

Likewise, in Delhi, the AAP and Congress, “We have made common cause”.

With BJP leaders attacking the Congress and the AAP for fighting separately in Punjab despite being allies of the INDIA bloc, Tharoor said, “I would say to the prime minister this a reality of our country. Learn to appreciate our diversity which also extends to our politics.”

Voting for the 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab and Chandigarh’s lone parliamentary seat will be held in the seventh and last phase of general elections on June 1.

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