Congress President and Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Shri Mallikarjun Kharge addressed Rajya Sabha on September 19, 2023.
Translated from Hindi
Addressing the Rajya Sabha, Shri Mallikarjun Kharge said that Honorable Speaker Sir, I do not want to make an elaborate speech. I had come thinking that there would be some speech from your side and after that, you would release all of us today. This is what I thought, but it was unfounded. The Prime Minister of India had very long speeches, 2-3 of them today. One was held in the Parliament, one was joint there in the Central Hall, and now here.
So, whatever he said, there is this one thing - he does not give us any credit, but I want to bring to his notice that the Women’s Reservation Bill was passed in 2010 itself, but there was an obstacle in its way, so it was force-stopped there. But earlier, it was about giving reservation to the backward classes, it was easy for the scheduled caste, because due to the already existing constitutional reservation, one-third easily came in it for them. But it is possible for the backward classes to be a little behind in this because unless there is a constitutional amendment to give 1/3rd to the backward classes, then naturally, the women there do not get it and if you do not do so, then, it will be a grave injustice meted out to those backward classes. Why would it be injustice? - because people always do this selectively for ladies, i.e., ladies from backward class, ladies from scheduled caste are not that educated and are mostly illiterate. Because of this and also because all the political parties have a habit that if a woman speaks, they give it to the weak woman instead of giving it to those who are capable, who can fight.
Sir, I do not comprehend the reason for them to protest. What I am saying is that they always give such tickets to people belonging to weaker sections, that they should not open their mouth, should not even talk in that party, that is why I am saying. ‘Sab party bola, aapki party ko nahi bola’ (I am talking about all the parties, not particularly yours.) (said on causing disturbance by the ruling party MPs)
We are saying that these backward women, scheduled caste women do not get such opportunities as the others are getting. Sir, the ‘Parliament of India’ - the temple of Indian democratic polity is sacred and permanent. However, as we meet for the first time in Rajya Sabha chamber in New Parliament Building, this occasion marks a new beginning as far as venue of our deliberations are concerned.
It is my fond hope that we have fruitful discussion on all matters of public interest and considered deliberations on bills. I also hope that in the times to come, the fraternity among parliamentarians cutting across the party-lines, is re-established in order to create congenial atmosphere and constructive exchange of ideas among law makers.
The need of the nation is that we parliamentarians live up to the people’s expectations in addressing their concerns. Sir, this is what I was trying to ensure that the laws we make should benefit the poorest of the poor and women. But while I was speaking to encourage them, someone interrupted by saying something to spoil the overall environment.
Now, there is one more issue. Honourable Prime Minister said that we have strengthened our Indian democracy and federal structure a lot, but everyone says, you ask anyone that under your leadership, the federal structure is becoming weaker day-by-day.
Sir, this is not something made up by me. I have written down the points the Prime Minister was speaking. I am speaking after taking everything down in black-and-white on this sheet of paper. If he does not talk about federal structure or federalism. If he doesn’t talk, if he asks, I will withdraw.
Sir, they are being weakened in many states. Firstly, they do not get the GST quickly, the MGNREGA amount does not go timely and whatever problems they are facing - be it the Agriculture Department, Irrigation Department, any other department - they do not get the grant they should get timely. Would it be like weakening or strengthening the federal states, I ask you? And I am talking about the second thing. Sir, you believe in democracy, want to follow democracy and you are all the talks of democracy; highlighting your achievements, you strengthening it - you say all this, but wherever there were democratically elected MLAs and government, you toppled them, most consciously. I am not going to bow down, otherwise you go ahead.
Respected sir, if you want the document, then I will collect the entire CAG report and the grants that were to go to each of our states and then give it to you later. Chairman, Sir, I don’t understand why this interruption happens only for me and even the Prime Minister is not speaking from there. You only asked them to sit and speak. The Prime Minister is also listening and enjoying, but he is not even defending me. Sir, my people are in complete control, but the Prime Minister is not controlling his people.
So, this is what I am saying - the condition of all the states is the same and if you ask the people of the states, they will tell you - be it West Bengal, Andhra, be it our Maharashtra, ask Punjab, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, ask Chhattisgarh, they will all ask their own questions. Maharashtra is yours, and so it is understandable that you speak. Then if you go straight and pick it up from their treasury by putting it in a bag, it is a different matter altogether. I always look towards you, but my problem is that sir, you look towards that side more than me. Sir, I do not want to consume much of your time and you should keep this in mind and especially the Prime Minister will keep this in mind, I am sure because it is a new building. There are many shortcomings that will be rectified under your leadership. But we came into a nice building for the first time. I don’t want to take too much time for saying anything. It happened peacefully in the morning, it is happening peacefully even now, let it be that way. I will cooperate in it, but I will say one thing which must be heard. Refrain from things like –whatever is mine is already mine and whatever is yours even that is mine. If both of you keep putting everything in your own bag by saying ‘This is yours and that is mine’ and forget what happened previously, then it is not good. So, at least check this out.
Sir, Bhimrao Ambedkar ji had said something on November 25, 1949-“Will Indians place the country above their creed or will they place creed above country? I do not know. But this much is certain that if the parties place creed above country, our independence will be put in jeopardy a second time and probably be lost forever”. That is, if we subordinate the interests of the state and the country to the interests of a Party, then no country will be able to enjoy independence for long. This is what he said and “This eventuality we must all resolutely guard against. We must be determined to defend our independence with the last drop of our blood.” This is the saying of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, in spite of so many obstructions at that time also.
Every person wants to gain more and more respect from his country and strengthen it, but few people understand that it is their contract, ‘Patriotism’ is their contract, it is their contract to speak. But you also see that other people living in the society also fight for the country and till the last breath, till the last drop of blood, everyone is ready to fight to save the country and we are also among them. We are also among them.
“There is great danger of things going wrong. Times are fast changing. People including our own are being moved by new ideologies. They are getting tired of government by the people. They are prepared to have Government for the people and are indifferent whether it is Government of the people and by the people.” Saying such things like - such a time was there even then, but everyone was united for the country - and such things came even at that time. So, we will do this unitedly for the betterment of the country - whether it is women’s reservation, SC/ST reservation in promotion, or anything else, we will do it together taking everyone into confidence. So, if I am doing everything, only I am doing it, and others are not doing anything, then it is not right.
Let me conclude by saying one thing. This quote is also from the Debate Constitution Assembly -“However good a Constitution may be, if those who are implementing it are not good, it will prove to be bad. However bad a Constitution may be, if those implementing it are good, it will prove to be good.”At that time while making the Constituent Assembly, leave aside one or two important leaders, others have no part in it. So, I beg you, let us say what we have to say.
The Prime Minister is so strong, he will speak for one hour, two hours, three hours at a stretch and that too every day, but will not speak on Manipur. So how does he forget? Sir, you will say to me, I have my right, I could have replied right there. When Goyal ji got up, he was saying again. If many things had happened earlier, then this situation would not have arisen today. At that very moment, I was about to answer. But I did not consider that an occasion. Here, I have put my four words in response to what the Prime Minister said in his speech. If you do not like it, then it is a different matter, but we all have to work together. If we do not work together, then the country will not be redeemed.