Prime minister Narendra Modi played to his strengths while making his debut in the Lok Sabha and in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday afternoon.
He spoke from 4pm to 5pm in the Lok Sabha and from 6pm to 7pm in the Rajya Sabha.
He stuck a note of humility at the beginning, saying he was new to Parliament and not conversant with the traditions and customs, and that he should be excused if he made mistakes. And he did make a mistake, addressing the Lok Sabha as "brothers and sisters". The true form is "honourable members". Of course he addressed the speaker correctly.
He said though he commanded a majority in the Lok Sabha, he would want to take the Opposition along as he implemented his developmental agenda. "Until the voting is done, we are contestants. Once we reach Parliament, we are envoys of hope, keepers of hope," he said. He also indulged in the victor's magnanimity by referring to the criticisms as positive and constructive.
He played the political outsider to Delhi power circle by asking the rhetorcial question: "Is government meant for the privileged? The government is meant for the poor."
He went back to his campaign rhetoric and said that the poor child had nowhere to go to but a government school, and the ailing poor person had nowhere to go but the government hospital, while the rich could go to private schools and private hospitals. He invoked the ideal of "Antyodaya", of reaching out to the last man in the queue, propagated by the BJP/Jan Sangh mentor Deen Dayal Upadhyay.
Breaking his silence on the rape and murder of two Dalit girls in Badaun and the killing of the Muslim techie in Pune, Modi said: "Whether one is in power or not, the incidents in Pune and Badaun should cause anguish in everyone."
Responding to the criticism that there was no clear road map on implementing his policies, he recalled that when he became chief minister of Gujarat, he said in the state assembly that he would see to it that there was continuous power supply in every village. Senior Congress leader and former chief minister Amarsinh Chaudhury came to his room and asked him why he made such a naive promise when it was an impossible thing to do. Modi said that Chaudhury was a well-wisher, but he told him that he will find a way and he did. Modi was responding to SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav's criticism in the course of the debate as to how Modi intended to implement his promises.
In an ironical twist, Modi said the lesson he learned from Mahatma Gandhi was that he turned the freedom struggle into a mass movement where everyone was made to feel that whatever she or he was doing was a contribution to the great cause. Modi said it was now necessary to turn the issue of development into a mass movement, where everyone should feel involved.