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Disappointing, says Cong

New Delhi, Aug. 16: The Congress today described Narendra Modi’s first Independence Day address to the nation as “very disappointing”.

“The only difference between his Independence Day address and the speeches he made at election rallies and once in Parliament after becoming the Prime Minister was his dress,” Congress spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed said. “It is sad he did not mention a word about weaker sections of the society, the Northeast, Pakistan, China and inflation.”

The assessment came after another spokesperson, Abhishek Singhvi, yesterday tweeted about the “inclusive and harmonious words of the Prime Minister” and later described the speech as great.

Although Singhvi, in a series of tweets, pointed to the hiatus between his words and deeds and mentioned how people like Yogi Adityanath, Sanjeev Balyan (minister and Muzaffarnagar riots accused), Mohan Bhagwat (RSS chief) and others “do yeoman disservice to the PM’s positive sentiments”, most senior leaders expressed anger.

Asked about the dichotomy between the views of the two spokespersons, Ahmed said: “I am briefing you on behalf of the party from the official podium. Singhvi’s views may be personal.”

Most Congress leaders thought Modi’s address was “not prime ministerial”.

Senior leaders Digvijaya Singh and Kapil Sibal, too, criticised the speech today, saying Modi’s words and deeds did not match.

Yesterday, former ministers Anand Sharma and Manish Tewari had contradicted Singhvi.

“The PM spoke against religious confrontation but words have to be matched by action on the ground by BJP and RSS outfits,” Sharma said.

Tewari said: “We expected him to articulate a certain vision on the trajectory of the next five years. But it is unfortunate that the PM got bogged down in pedestrian issues and could not rise to the occasion. His call for communal harmony does not tally with the attempts at religious polarisation over the last two months.”

Today, Ahmed alleged that Modi did not talk about the weaker sections of the society because they don’t figure in the Sangh’s agenda.

On his call for not politicising I-Day speeches, Ahmed said: “Modi started politicising I-Day speech by attacking Manmohan Singh in 2013; it never happened that a chief minister confronted the Prime Minister on national issues in that manner. He called Manmohan Singh a spineless leader because of ceasefire violations by Pakistan. What did Modi say about that in his address?”

On the Prime Minister’s appeal for a 10-year moratorium on casteism and communalism, he said: “Modi used his OBC status fully in the election.”

Ahmed also recalled Modi’s recent praise for his lieutenant Amit Shah. “ Amit Shah, who described the election in western Uttar Pradesh as badle ka chunav and izzat ki larai (election for revenge and fight for respect), was declared the man of the match by Modi. And he talks of moratorium, not end of these sins, as if they have to resume communalism after 10 years.”