"Tumhare Paaon ke neeche koi zameen nahi
Kamal ye hai ki phir bhi tumhe yakeen nahi"
("no ground under your feet
It's amazing that you still don't believe")
In speeches laced with couplets, the one above by Dushyant Kumar, and catchy poetic phrases, Prime Minister Narendra Modi 'thrilled' both houses of parliament during the ongoing Budget Session. Thrilled for the reason that even his critics who were waiting for him to respond on the grave charges levelled against him and his government were left amused and chuckling.
In light of the Adani episode, the opposition had hurled questions and allegations of Modi's complicity in the matter. While speaking on the Motion of Thanks over the President's address, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and other voices from the opposition benches posed several questions about 'building' Adani and accused the Prime Minister of crony capitalism. But when the Prime Minister rose to speak, even in the upper house the next day, he did not consider them worth responding to. Instead, he emphatically dismissed the charges by rhetorics like 140-Cr Indians were his shield against any attack. "Jitna keechad uchhaloge, Kamal utna hi khilega" (The more mud you throw, the more the lotus will bloom), said the PM in the Rajya Sabha.
On expected lines, the television media went gaga over Modi's address and replayed the snippets of his speech innumerable times; repackaging it with catchy captions and tickers, at times brazenly partisan. However, one of them aptly described it as 'PM ne mehfil loot li ' (PM was the showstopper).
Indeed, session after session the Prime Minister has been looting the mehfil (gathering) instead of engaging with the issues raised by the opposition. Him speaking at the house floor is almost now a Congress-bashing exercise. He Destroys and Dismantles the grand old party, a recurring theme of his floor speeches, which undoubtedly has decades of baggage to shoulder.
In the latest address, the Prime Minister emphasized public mandates to brush off any criticism coming his way. Janmat (public mandate) for him is such an institution, it appeared, that was above all in a democracy, and parliamentary scrutiny is no different either.
His preference for building his own narrative is not new and he has successfully carried it from his Gujarat days. But it's the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that has now incorporated its leader's time-tested strategy for itself when in parliament.
It is imperative to recall how subsequent sessions of parliament have seen major tussles between the opposition and the ruling members over matters of discussion. From Adani to Pegasus, Inflation to Indo-China tensions, the BJP led by Modi hasn't relented to agree to a discussion over any of the above issues desired by the opponents.
Riding on the brute majority, the government has been getting legislations passed at high speed and deliberately misinterpreting it as the measure of success for sessions.
The rush to ram down legislations has been worrying parliamentary affairs experts. The pattern is alarming. According to PRS Legislative Research, while the 14th and 15th Lok Sabha (from 2004 to 2014) had scrutinised 60 per cent and 71 percent of bills, the 16th Lok Sabha scrutinised only 26 per cent of the total number of bills passed in Parliament. The trend has continued in the 17th Lok Sabha too.
Protests and boycotts by the opposition members, who are left with no other option to make themselves heard, are ridiculed by the BJP for wasting taxpayer's money. Never mind the now-famous statement of Jaitley, who, when in opposition, had justified disruptions of the parliamentary proceedings as a democratic necessity.
And as the recent trends suggest, the Narendra Modi-led government has devised another means to avoid parliamentary scrutiny. From the Budget Session of 2020 to the Winter Session in 2023, the parliament sessions have been curtailed eight consecutive times.
This is significant as it prevents the predominant narrative, produced by the government, to bear any damages. Author Shivam Shankar Singh in his book The Art of Conjuring Alternate Realities offers a lesson on what it takes to sustain an alternate reality.
"From the perspective of the conjurer, an alternate reality that does not grow is unsustainable and can break apart at any time. It isn't enough to create an alternate reality using all of the world's media, social media and messaging systems just once. If the conjurer does not constantly reinforce this alternate reality, keep creating new supporting stories and protect it from competing versions, it is inevitable that it will shatter".
So when the Prime Minister takes a barb at Rahul Gandhi and his Yatra-
'Ye kah kah kar hum dil ko bahla rahe hain
Wo ab chal chuke hain, wo ab aa rahe hain'
(By saying this we are assuming the heart,
he has walked, he has arrived)
- it doesn't anyway showcase that Gandhi is perceived to be a challenger in the BJP camp. Modi mocking Rahul and his "ecosystem" has only to do with discrediting any criticism that may carry the potential to even vent the alternate reality.
Leaving little room for his opponents to set the agenda and not engaging on the specifics, in case they attempt, is the Modi-way. A hard but successfully learnt lesson from the post-2002 Gujarat. And that's the mainstay of Modi's success.