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PM reaches out to brothers & Bengal sister but doesn’t allow rapier to rust

New Delhi, June 11: Prime Minister Narendra Modi softened the sneer he had reserved for the Congress in his pre-poll blitz. The couple of barbs he darted on the Opposition in his debut speech in Parliament today were mostly cloaked in humour.

Modi’s reply to the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha to the motion of thanks on the presidential address was a potpourri of the ideas and agendas culled from his campaign speeches.

The pot had a bite for everyone: the minorities, the chief ministers, the east, the Northeast and non-BJP chief ministers, including “my sister” Mamata Banerjee.

The Prime Minister appeared keen to convey a sense of gravitas after the point-scoring on the campaign trail, though he could not resist the temptation to sling a few stones.

Modi appealed to the Opposition to cooperate with the ruling party in a bipartisan spirit in Parliament. “The country is bigger than our parties. If we have your (Opposition) support, we can make India better. We can think of the country in the first four years. The last year is enough to do politics. Let us put the bitterness of the past behind us,” Modi said as the NDA benches thumped and were joined by a couple of backbenchers from the Congress.

Standing Congress Lok Sabha leader Mallikarjun Kharge’s definition of electoral victory and defeat on its head, Modi said in the Rajya Sabha, “Victory and defeat, both have the power to teach important lessons. Those who don’t draw lessons from their victory sow the seeds of defeat. Those who don’t learn lessons from their defeat are doomed to destruction.”

In the Lower House, the Prime Minister said: “The era of the Pandavas and the Kauravas is over but people still talk about the Pandavas. In our thinking, Pandavas can never be vanquished.”

On Tuesday, Kharge had likened the Congress to the Pandavas, warning the BJP not to gloat in its numerical strength in the Lok Sabha. Modi appeared to be suggesting that the Pandava parallel fits the winners — in this case the BJP — better than the vanquished.

Modi ridiculed the political class’s propensity to dwell on “past glories” to vindicate present failures — as some Congress speakers did today when they said UPA’s score card was littered with success stories.

The Prime Minister said: “Vinoba Bhave described a youth as one who thought and spoke of tomorrow. Of course, in our daily lives, we are used to hearing old people singing about the past, narrating old stories. We have to think only of the days to come.”

The future, he claimed, was “bright” because India had “exceptional reserves of strength” stashed as much in the states as in Delhi.

Elaborating on the concept of cooperative federalism enshrined in the President’s address, Modi said: “I have suffered as chief minister of a state. I know what it means to have a friendly Centre and an adversarial Centre. I know how difficult things can become for a chief minister who wants to do things for his people. States’ rights have been trampled upon, conspiracies are hatched to impede their progress. This can’t go on. The Centre and the states have to work arm in arm.”

He added that his idea of “Team India” envisaged the Prime Minister and the chief ministers working as one.

The Bengal chief minister drew fulsome praise. “My sister Mamata Banerjee is working really hard to undo the damage done in the past 35 years in West Bengal,” the Prime Minister said.

“Whichever party is in power in any state, we will work on the basis of cooperative federalism,” he added.

The Prime Minister made it clear that he did not intend superimposing the “Gujarat Model” as a monolithic template on every state.

“Bad governance has destroyed the country,” Modi said, underscoring the need to “correct” India’s image from “Scam India” to “Skilled India”.

Image rectification, he said, ought to begin from Parliament. “There is a perception that many of our MPs have criminal antecedents. We have to dispel the perception. If an FIR is filed against a member, the hearing must be expedited so that in a short time, the accused would be pronounced guilty and sent to jail or emerge innocent and stand vindicated. The process must begin without ado so that by 2015, both our Houses will not have a single tainted MP.”