New Delhi: Union home minister Amit Shah has defended Manipur chief minister N. Biren Singh in parliament, saying that there is no need to change him amid the ongoing violence in the state as he has been “cooperative with the Centre”.
Speaking in the Lok Sabha on the second day of the no-confidence motion brought against the Modi government, Shah in his over two-hour-long speech listed the Union government’s achievements for an hour and 20 minutes, and devoted around 45 minutes to explaining how the Union government is handling the violence in Manipur.
Manipur has been in the grip of ethnic violence since May 3. Over 150 people have died and tens of thousands displaced.
The no-confidence motion was brought by the Congress on July 26 to make Prime Minister Narendra Modi address the violence in parliament.
However, Modi remained absent on both the days of the debate and is only expected to speak in the house on Thursday (August 10).
“PM has called me at 4 am and woken me up at 6.30 am as well [to discuss Manipur]. And they are saying that the PM does not care,” said Shah, responding to the opposition’s charge on Modi’s silence.
“36,000 central forces have been sent. The chief secretary has been changed, the DGP has been changed,” he said.
Responding to the opposition’s questions on Singh, who has remained in his seat despite widespread discontent, Shah said: “CM is changed when he does not cooperate [with the Centre].”
Shah also questioned the timing of the video that went viral last month of two Kuki women being paraded naked on May 4.
“Why did this video surface just before the parliament session was to start?”
Admitting that there was no intelligence on the video, Shah said that if anyone had the video, they should have brought it to the police.
“If someone had this video, they should have given it to the DGP then itself and action would have been taken immediately,” he said.
Shah said that in the over three-month-long violence, 152 people have been killed, but the violence has decreased since May.
“Of the 152 people who have been killed, 107 died between May 3-5. The reason I am giving these figures is to show that the violence has decreased over the subsequent months. Please don’t pour fuel over the fire.”
Taking aim at Congress MP Rahul Gandhi, who spoke earlier in the day, Shah said that he welcomed Gandhi’s visit to Manipur.
“I welcome Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Manipur. He went there and he wanted to go to Churachandpur. We said [to] go by helicopter, but he insisted on going by road. This is called politics,” said Shah.
“If you want to go, go by helicopter. But you don’t want to cooperate. If you want to go by road, why did you agree to go by helicopter the next day?
“You just want to trouble the state government and the central government, and you think that the country is not watching?”
Shah also accused the opposition of not wanting a discussion on Manipur.
“The nation is being misled by being told that the government does not want to discuss Manipur. From day one, I have been saying that I am ready for a discussion. But you only want to oppose and protest. If you don’t allow a discussion, if you don’t allow the home minister to speak, then what kind of democratic process do you want?”
The home minister said that while successive UPA governments have not done anything for Manipur, Modi has brought the northeastern region into the mainstream.
“Modi has visited the Northeast over 50 times in the last nine years. This shows that we consider the Northeast as a part of India. They are questioning us over the Northeast even though they have done nothing for the region.”
He also said that the violence started after the Manipur high court order in April, which led tensions between the Meiteis and Kukis to boil over.
“The high court order on April 29 added fuel to the fire and violence started during a march on May 3,” he said.
Citing incidents of violence in Manipur under the governments of P.V. Narasimha Rao, I.K. Gujral and Manmohan Singh, Shah said that none of these prime ministers had visited the region then.
“Did any minister visit then? And they are asking why the PM has not visited,” he said.
Shah appealed to both the Meiteis and Kukis to maintain peace and come to the discussion table with the Union government to end the violence in Manipur.
“I appeal to both the Meitei and Kuki communities to begin a dialogue. Violence is not the answer. We assure you that we will bring peace,” he said.
A motion was also moved by speaker Om Birla in the house appealing for peace in Manipur.
No-confidence motion ‘politically motivated’
Referring to the no-confidence motion, Shah listed his government’s achievements and said that it was “politically motivated”.
“When you bring a no-confidence motion, it is a question mark on the government. And that is why I have to give my government’s report card, because this is politically motivated,” he said.
Shah said that the no-confidence motion has been brought to “mislead the nation”.
“In the last nine years, the Modi government has taken over 50 landmark decisions for the nation. Today is August 9, and on this day, Mahatma Gandhi gave the call ‘Quit India’ for our independence.
“In the last nine years, Modi has started [a] politics of governance and ended thirty years of politics in this country which was embroiled in dynasty, corruption and appeasement.
“Because there is still corruption in some quarters, Modi has given the slogans ’Corruption Quit India’, ‘Dynasty Quit India’, ‘Appeasement Quit India,” he said.
Shah also said that while the opposition may lack confidence in the government, the people of the country have “full confidence” in Modi.
‘Manipur is not divided’
Earlier in the day, Union minister Smriti Irani shot back at Gandhi for his speech, where he alleged that the Modi government has “murdered” Bharat Mata.
“For the first time in history, someone has talked about the murder of Bharat Mata, while leaders from the Congress clapped and thumped their desks,” said Irani who spoke right after Gandhi.
“Manipur is not divided, it is a part of this country,” she said.
“A member of his alliance said in Tamil Nadu that India only means north India. If he has the courage, Rahul Gandhi should comment and ask for an explanation. Another Congress leader said there should be a referendum on Kashmir … Was the statement given as per the order of the Congress leadership?” she said.
Irani also referred to the exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits in 1990s and the anti-Sikh riots in 1984, and accused the Congress of not acting on violence against women in Rajasthan.
“You are not India because you define corruption in India, you define incompetence … you are not India,” she said.
Failure of ‘double engine’ government
Members of the opposition, on the other hand, centred their attack on hitting out at the “double engine” government in Manipur.
Janata Dal (United) MP Rajiv Ranjan Singh said that even though Manipur has a double engine government of the BJP, the Modi government brings up instances from other states.
“Manipur has a double engine government of the BJP. When we discuss Manipur, the government brings instances from other states. Today it is Manipur, tomorrow it will be Mizoram – your entire northeastern borders will be in danger.
“Long speeches were given [by BJP MPs] but Manipur was not mentioned. There is trust deficit between two communities in Manipur and towards government,” he said.
Trinamool Congress MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar said that the BJP MPs listing the government’s achievements have proved that they are not bothered about Manipur.
“The first [Smriti Irani] and all other speakers have proved that they are not bothered about what is happening in Manipur and are only interested in beating the drums about their achievements.
“You don’t need a double engine, you just need one engine and one driver like we have in West Bengal,” she said.
“This is a civil war [in Manipur] and a government that cannot control a civil war has no business to remain in power,” she said.
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MP Kanimozhi said that the double engine government in Manipur is what has led to its current state of affairs.
“The government says there is a double engine in Manipur. But this double engine has become a double-edged weapon, double disaster for the state,” she said.
“The PM speaks outside parliament but refuses to cross the threshold and come inside the parliament,” she said.
Bharat Rashtra Samithi MP Nama Nageswara Rao said that the Modi government should take an all-party delegation to Manipur and “take responsibility for what is happening”.
‘Win people’s hearts’
The debate also saw two Union ministers warring with National Conference MP Farooq Abdullah over the government’s work in Jammu and Kashmir.
Abdullah said that the prime minister should act as the leader of the whole country.
“The PM does not represent only one colour. He represents the 1.4 billion people of India. I tried to bring Kashmiri Pandits back home when Gujral was PM and forces across the border killed innocent Kashmiri Pandits. We stopped the 50 vehicles to bring them back home. How many Pandits have you brought back in ten years?”
Minister of state for home affairs Nityanand Rai stood up and said that it is “wrong” to say that the government has not done anything for Kashmiri Pandits. “He is misleading”, Rai said.
Abdullah also said that whether it is Kashmir or Manipur, the message of love should be sent out.
“We need to work with love and win people’s hearts. Love is the only way forward,” he said.
Shiromani Akali Dal MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal also said that the politics of hate will not solve anything in Manipur.
“Instead of doing politics of hate, the government should provide its healing touch,” she said.
Support from the YSRCP
The government, however, received support from the YSR Congress Party (YSCRP), which said that while the party will support the government in the no-confidence motion, Manipur needs a solution.
P.V. Mithun Reddy, YSRCP MP, said that “heinous crimes against women” are being seen in Manipur.
“Ethnic violence needs to be curbed. Both the ethnic groups need to be made to sit for a dialogue. This is really shameful that this is happening in our country where we preach unity in diversity.
“Address the source of the problem through meaningful dialogue. A strong Manipur means a strong India. YSRCP believes that this no-confidence motion does not carry much value, because the ruling NDA has an absolute majority. We don’t want to be part of a tussle between two alliances,” he said.
“We urge the government to sort out Manipur as soon as possible, and in the interest of the country, the government should act with all its might to ensure peace is restored.”
The debate also saw speeches from Union minister Anupriya Patel, BJP MPs Heena Gavit and Ram Kirpal Yadav, along with opposition MPs like Communist Party of India MP K. Subbarayan, among others.