Modi must reply as he sought votes for himself, says Azad

Says PM is accountable to people, his silence is hurting the country

New Delhi : As the logjam in the Rajya Sabha continued for the fifth successive day, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad came up with a new rationale for the opposition”s insistence that only prime minister Narendra Modi can respond to the debate on conversion.

“’There is nothing new about conversions. But the difference is that the prime minister has sought votes for himself during the elections. He did not seek votes for his party. He told the people that he would be responsible, and now it is not fair that it is being argued that some minister would reply to the debate on conversions,” said Azad who came to the house for the first time after the controversy erupted.

“’There is nothing derogatory about seeking votes for one self. It is perfectly in order to seek votes for yourself as this shows a sense of accountability,” the veteran parliamentarian responded as BJP members protested against his observation that Modi had sought a mandate for himself and not for the party.

Making an impassioned plea, Azad said that the prime minister”s silence in hurting the country as well as the BJP. “The longer this silence continues, the stronger would be the impression that the BJP wants these conversions, that are illegal, unconstitutional and unethical,” said the former parliamentary affairs minister who was heard in virtual silence after days of din in the house.

The former union minister who hails from Kashmir pointed out that the only reason as to why the same foreign countries that did not allow even a visa to Modi till about a year ago, were welcoming him warmly now was because he is now the elected representative of 125 crore Indians who are multi-cultural and multi-religious. “We are not asking him to clarify his position in some public place, but in this very home of democracy to which he belongs. We have tremendous respect for the prime minister,” he added.

Azad called upon the prime minister to take a leaf out of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru”s book in terms of parliamentary functioning, and in the event of not drawing upon any Congress leader then to look at the conduct of the BJP”s very own Atal Bihari Vajpayee. “All of them treated the parliament with utmost respect,” he added.

Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar sought to capitalise on Azad’s eloquence to break the impasse. ”You have articulated the issue like no other leader from the party, now you continue with the debate,” he quipped. But Azad stuck to the point that the debate would take place only when the prime minister agrees to respond to it.

He said the reception Prime Minister receives when he goes abroad is because he represents the 125-crore multi-religion country. In past when there was doubts that he did not represent all sections, he was not welcome in foreign land with some countries imposing restrictions, he said. Modi during general elections asked for votes for himself and not even for his party – BJP, he said.

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