Rajya Sabha

February 25, 2015

Derek O’Brien speaks on Motion of Thanks on the President’s Address | Transcript

Sir, this is indeed a privilege and a reflection of this wondrous democracy of ours, where we just heard three speakers from this side: one, the Leader of Opposition who has been an MP since 1980 from Jammu and Kashmir, then we have Ram Gopal Yadav from UP and the earthy humour of Sharad Yadav, who has been a nine-time MP.

In fact, in this wondrous democracy of ours, a first-time MP comes from a community which is less than 2 lakh in India, a miniscule minority. He grew up in a Hindu neighbourhood, in a Christian family, on a street in Kolkata named after a Muslim.  This is our wondrous democracy. This is a true reflection of our unity in diversity. And in this wondrous democracy, imagine a woman who belonged to a big political party, left the party 16-17 years ago, and got behind the people. She led the people’s movement of Singur, went on a hunger strike for 26 days. She is a simple petite woman, 5 feet and a few inches tall. Today, in this wondrous democracy, she can come to Parliament with 45-46 of her own MPs.

We must celebrate this democracy. We must celebrate this unity in diversity. In what we have heard – those 18 pages, 58 bullet points in the President’s Address in the Parliament – we have heard nothing celebrating this great unity in diversity.

In fact, the last 276 days have been, if I may use a strong word, scary. Let us talk about the three important issues which I think are reasons for how this communal divisive kind of politics is happening. Let me give you some insights. The first is loudspeakers – yes, loudspeakers are effective, low on investment and hard to ignore. Loudspeakers today are causing a lot of communal divide – how you put on the loudspeaker, when you put on the loudspeaker, which community gets affected so. This loudspeaker is a major cause for dividing this country.

The second one is rumour-mongering; the third one is technology, technology of the telephone. India should be less scared of the gun or the bomb, and more scared of this telephone; for example, rumour-mongering like that which happened in Vadodara in September 2014. I do not want to go into the details but there are lots of examples.

The dangerous part of all this is that there is a pattern. No progress was made in the SIT probe on the church attack that happened in Delhi in December 2014. There have been a lot of statements. There have been a lot of empty promises.

On the subject of empty promises, you know, if you observe the interesting and multi-billion dollar advertising campaign which was run by a big party, especially during March, April and May, they used a very interesting device. What was that device? The device of hologram. You can only see it, but there is nothing there – that’s the magic of the hologram. If you look at the last seven-eight months, you can see a lot of things but there is actually nothing there.

Like you talk about 18 million bank accounts. But if you look closely, 95% of them have zero balance. You talked about coal auction; the focus has now shifted to the auction of a coat. At least the textile industry would get a boost.

I want to make this point because there is a lot of talk about the fringe element. My submission, Chairman Sir, is, is this really the fringe element? Or is this the mainstream element?

Many people were quoted in the President’s Address. I also want to use a quote and I think this is a very appropriate quote. I am very tempted, because I come from Bengal, to quote Rabindranath or to quote Netaji or to quote Swami Vivekananda. I will not quote them today. But listen to this quote:

“I have said that I support Hindutva, the Hindutva preached by Swami Vivekananda. But the type of propaganda on Hindutva that is being carried out now, that is wrong, it is not fair; we have to stay one hundred miles away from that.”

I am disappointed that the Prime Minister with his busy schedule has not been with us for this part, because of the timing and who said this.

This was said by Atal Bihari Vaypayee. This was said after the Gujarat riots in 2002. And I want to use this opportunity to remind my friends from this side, quote whoever you want, but this is also a good gentleman and you can take his advice. My Bengali is good, my English is not bad, but my Hindi is putrid.

But I want to say these lines in Hindi, because they can’t be translated.

Mein kabhi antar mein soch bhi nahin sakta kisi dusre dharam par apatti ki jaye, akshep kiya jaye. Matbhed hona alag baat hai lekin ‘Sarva Dharma Sambhav’ is desh ki mitti ka gun hain, is desh ki mitti ka khusbu mein hai.”

This is Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in 2002. Don’t listen to anybody else if you want. Don’t listen to the so-called fringe elements yesterday who want to pass a judgement on Mother Teresa, but listen to this. One more.

“Yeh koi 1947 ke baad ka den nahin hain ya koi adhunik kaal mein humne avishkar kiya ho, aisa nahin hai. Is desh main mat-matantaro ko lekar hamesha matved rahe hai aur matvedo ko shanti ke saath shastradh ke dwara hal karne ki parampara rahi hai.”

This is again Vajpayee ji. You know, these quotes don’t make sense to my 19-year-old daughter whose Hindi is even worse than mine. But when we watch Virat Kohli bat or we watch Sami bowl or Stuart Binny as an all-rounder, when they wear that blue jersey, they are Indian. We wanted to be that way. But I would have to say, that there is a lot of talk about a Digital India, but when we hear these kinds of things, we feel this is a Divisive India.

I am glad what happened in Delhi, and congratulations to AAP for the 67-3 score, because after that we are hearing some gentle noises. Whether the gentle noises will translate into action, well, that is an entirely different story. Now, often when this subject is brought up, we say, no no, leave all this communal aside, leave all these secular aside, talk development, talk numbers. So let’s talk some numbers.

Health budget cut by Rs 6,000 crore, Defense budget cut by Rs 13,000 crore, HRD budget cut by Rs 4,000 crore. Agricultural growth is down, jobs are down, industrial production is down.

What is up? The highest numbers of cases in the Supreme Court today are still against disabled soldiers. Please do something about this. I know the focus sometimes is on MSG .The MSG number is up, but do not forget about MSP. MSG, for those who aren’t familiar, is Madison Square Garden; lots of big numbers there.

Now let me give you the State compared to the Central Government. I will take my State.

  • GDP: India,  4.9%, Bengal, 7.7%
  • Agricultural growth: India, 4.6%, Bengal, 5.3%
  • Industrial growth: India, 0.7%, Bengal, in excess of 9%
  • Service industry: India, 6.9%, Bengal, 7.8%


We talk about women’s reservation of 33.33%. Eleven per cent is the parliamentary average of women’s reservation. I  am so proud that in the recent by-polls which were held about 10 days ago, a lady got elected as our newest MP. Trinamool Congress now has 35.2% women MPs. We don’t need reservation. Mamata di doesn’t need reservation, because she makes it happen.

Now the famous excuse is, we can’t do any work because in the Rajya Sabha Opposition is disrupting us. Has the Opposition stopped you from appointing a new Central Information Commissioner? Has the Opposition stopped you from appointing a Lokpal, a CVC, NDMA, and National Commission for Protection of Child Rights? The Opposition hasn’t stopped you. And after all the noises the Opposition made, at least last month you have appointed the Coal India CMD.

Now, let’s come to the issue of Ordinances, because yesterday I mentioned this. The much-respected Leader of the House said 700 Ordinances were brought at some time. So I have got some figures here. They are very interesting figures and they are across parties. For every 10 Bills the Indira Gandhi Government brought, one was an Ordinance. For every 10 Bills Pandit Nehru brought, 0.9 were Ordinances. Now you will say I am doing publicity for the Congress. So, let’s move to Janata Party. For every Bill they brought, 1.5 were Ordinances. For UPA I and UPA II, for every 10 Bills they brought, 1.8 was an Ordinance. And in the last 8 months, for every 10 Bills you brought, 3 were Ordinances.

But then this Ordinance ka chakkar may be a new-generation issue. So, I will quote a person, who I am sure, you’ll take seriously. He was the First Speaker of the Lok Sabha. This is what he said:

“If Ordinances were not limited by convention only to extreme and urgent cases, the result would be, in future the Government would go on issuing ordinances and making Parliament a rubber stamp.”

RS means Rajya Sabha. Let me assure through you, Sir, RS will not become rubber stamp. At least till all of us are here, for the next few years, we are not going to be the rubber stamp.

Everyone has spoken a lot about land. But my party, Trinamool Congress (led by Mamata di, who undertook a 26-day hunger strike), even for the Bill by UPA, asked for a division. There were only 12 of us that day who voted, yet we voted against the UPA 2 Bill. We hate this draconian Bill; we will continue to oppose this kind of Land Ordinance. That time it was very difficult.

Two other points.

Electoral reforms. We had nothing on electoral reforms. There has been a lot of hologram talk before the elections.

On the issue of black money, let me quote the current Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah ji. In 2012, he said:

“The names of the foreign account holders must be made public, and I demand a time-bound assurance from the Government.”

That was in 2012. Now no black money is coming back. This is the only kind of ghar wapsi we really want. We want the black money to come back. Because this black money leads to money power, money power leads to muscle power, and this kind of power, with media power, is a toxic mix in a democracy. And we need to be very very careful, we need to be alert.

I have two more quick points to make. The Government has come up with this very nice slogan of ‘Cooperative Federalism’. I would like the Government, through you, Sir, to consider ‘Operative Federalism’. The difference is that in Cooperative Federalism you talk and in Operative Federalism there is action. Let me give you three or four examples of genuine Operative Federalism.

One. In the latest Finance Commission report, there is not a single mention of the debt-stressed States, not one line. By the way, don’t make it seem that you all are doing a charity to the States; that is a recommendation of the 14th Finance Commission report and you are merely implementing it. We will be keeping a close eye on the Budget, on the grant-in-aids and mission mode projects. This is because you have done a very nice media spin saying that you have increased devolution from 32 to 42%, but we have to look into the fine print. Planning Commission – you have again gone ahead and changed it; you have changed the name. I suspect, on the Planning Commission, what really happened was that you found a good name and then wanted to back-fit everything to that name.

Now we come to another example of cooperative federalism – ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’. Rs 100 crore has been allocated this year. If you really want to put the States on board, learn from the States. Bengal has put Rs 1,000 crore behind a UN-backed programme called Kanyashree. It’s a fantastic programme. It’s tried, it’s piloted, it’s tested, it’s rolled out. Use those programmes. But instead, what you go on and do? In the Republic Day parade, when Bengal wants to use their tableau called Kanyashree, something happens and you don’t allow it to take part.

Maoist terrorism. Again, it’s a very good example of operative federalism.

Medicines. Bengal is among the few States in India to offer 40 to 50% discounts.

And Sir, I will end now with this love for FDI.  FDI is the solution to all the problems. But look at two points in FDI very very closely. The first point is, 14 years of FDI in insurance has brought in Rs 7,000 crore. These are not my numbers, these are your numbers. LIC dividend for the last 10 years has been Rs 14,000 core, i.e., Rs 1400 crore per year. Insurance penetration (please look at this figure before you bring in FDI) has gone down, from 2009 to 2015, by 1%, and you still want to bring in FDI. You want to sell us another hologram. Current government projects, you say, will be a 3% increase in 5 years. Please don’t make this sound like an election promise.

I will end now with a beautiful rhyme I learnt in  school. I will repeat that now and then I will conclude. It is a beautiful one about a hen which lays eggs and a codfish which also lays eggs.

A codfish lays one thousand eggs, a hen lays only one,

But the codfish never cackles to tell you what she’s done,

And yet we scorn the codfish, while the ordinary hen we praise,

Which only goes to show, to advertise it pays.


Thank you so much.