New Delhi, June 6: Narendra Modi has told his MPs not to deliver “an address a day to the nation” or provide media bites on subjects they are unfamiliar with or “ignorant about”.
The Prime Minister’s sardonic reference to “an address to the nation” seemed to go over the heads of most of the MPs assembled at the parliamentary party meeting this morning, at least initially.
“I took him literally and wondered to myself, ‘Since when have I started delivering addresses to the nation?’” said a senior MP who has held key posts in the party’s parliamentary wing.
“It took me and some of my colleagues several minutes to realise that what the Prime Minister meant was that we should stop speaking to the media at will. It was typical of him to couch his message in irony.”
That wasn’t Modi’s only piece of advice to the 281 party MPs before him, of whom some 135 are first-time parliamentarians. Sources said he stressed that MPs should not speak on issues about which they were “clueless”.
“He said that an MP from a southern state need not sound like an authority on Uttar Pradesh and make expert comments on a development relating to that state,” a source said.
Modi cautioned his MPs about the Delhi “minefield” and advised them to stay away from “power brokers” and “sycophants”.
“Delhi is a new place for many of you. People you may not know will try and ingratiate themselves with you and say they are ready to serve you, to do anything for you,” an MP quoted the Prime Minister as saying.
“You might be tempted to take them at face value and use their services. But be warned, they will serve you so efficiently that you will find it difficult to shake them off later. Never come close to such people.”
Modi asked the members to read their letters and documents carefully before signing them and keep an eye out for “red herrings” and “concealed agendas” that might serve “vested interests”.
Those who had imagined that their Parliament stint would be a breeze were in for a rethink.
Modi said that instead of “whiling away” their time at the Central Hall — where members habitually chat over lunch and tea, often for hours, even when the House is in session — they should pore over the newspapers, journals and books at Parliament’s library.
Some of the other do’s and don’ts he spelt out, according to sources:
When Parliament is in session, every member should sit through the proceedings each working day. When it’s not in session, they should be in their constituencies and not linger on in Delhi.
Members should take calls from party workers and not slam the phone on them. Modi was quoted as saying: “The workers are your core strength. If you alienate or annoy them, you risk losing your next election.”
MPs should sit only in their allocated seats. They must not loaf about the House, talking to their chums, when it is in session. If they must speak, they should step out into the lobbies.
Members should stop touching Modi’s feet.
MPs should focus on the next slew of state elections, for which responsibilities will be allotted and accountability fixed.
Parliamentary affairs minister M. Venkaiah Naidu too spoke to the MPs. Sources quoted him as warning the members against sub-leasing their official residences to “launderettes and hairdressers” as some members had allegedly done in the past.
Naidu added that MPs must cancel their railway and air reservations if they do not intend travelling on the dates for which their tickets were booked, so that the seats could be released for passengers on the waiting list.
L.K. Advani’s speech was a potted history of the Lok Sabha and his journey through Parliament.