India prime Minister Narendra Modi today pulled up BJP MPs for skipping parliament proceedings following incidents of lack of quorum and even warned that he will keep a tab on them by calling any member any time during the session.
Modi’s tough talk to his party’s MPs at the weekly BJP Parliamentary Party meeting came following frequent delay in start of work in the two Houses due to lack of quorum – the minimum number of members needed for valid proceedings.
He told them that attending parliament is their basic responsibility and added wryly that he can do a lot of things but cannot be present there on their behalf. Parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar spoke about incidents of lack of quorum in both the Houses, including yesterday, prompting Modi to say that it should not be about “requesting the MPs to be present” as it is their basic responsibility.
BJP members said that the prime minister told them that it did not matter to him if they were in the Central Hall, a place to host joint sittings of parliament where MPs often meet for informal conversation, as what is important is that they should be inside the Houses. “I can call any of you any time,” Modi was quoted as saying by a member. He added that Modi was visibly unhappy over absenteeism.
Modi had in the past also asked members to ensure their presence in the two Houses but this time he spoke out without mincing words. He recalled the remarks of an RSS functionary who had lamented that though the Hindutva organisation had spread far and wide, its members seem to be too busy to attend ‘shakhas’ (meetings). Likewise, the MPs too seemed to have so much of work that they do not have time to attend parliament, which should not be the case, he said.
As representatives of the people of their constituency, it is their job to attend the House proceedings, he said. In his briefing, Kumar said Modi also laid out the “road map” for the party as it gears up to celebrate its foundation day on April 6 and Dalit icon Bhim Rao Ambedkar’s birth anniversary on April 14.
Modi told the BJP Parliamentary Party that the party’s primary members should be asked to join panchayat and municipal-level meetings during over a week-long exercise to mark the two events.
All MPs, ministers and party functionaries will participate in these meetings, Kumar told reporters. Party functionaries will highlight the government’s achievements, the BJP’s upward journey and will be shown a video about this.
The BJP will be organising a host of events between April 6 and April 14 in which it will seek to highlight how the Modi government has worked to realise Ambedkar’s idea of a ‘samta-yukt samaj’ (equal society) with its schemes like Jan Dhan and Mudra among others, Kumar said.
Modi asked them to give at least one hour daily for his cleanliness drive, which is aimed at making India’s streets cleaner. Party members in the evening will take out a procession carrying Ambedkar’s photographs. The prime minister also asked them to reach out to small traders and workers, like washermen, to popularise ‘Bhim’ app, a digital payment medium, saying it can help in making them financially more capable.
He also termed the likely roll out of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) as “transformative” and asked them to spread awareness about it. The government will be holding workshops to educate leaders of different parties about its impact.