The real quake

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The real quake

New Delhi (The Telegraph): When fire and brimstone rain down, little captures the force of nature better than the home-grown admonition: “Baitho, chup kar ke baitho (Sit down, just shut up and sit down.”)

On Thursday, attention was focused on the Prime Minister’s fixation on Jawaharlal Nehru and an “earthquake” remark Narendra Modi had made against former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah in the Lok Sabha. Since then fears have been expressed that the Prime Minister might have sourced the “earthquake” reference from a satirical portal named Faking News.

However, soon after the Prime Minister replied to the motion of thanks to the President’s address in the Lok Sabha, an undeniable “earthquake” rocked the Rajya Sabha.

Viplove Thakur, a septuagenarian MP, stood up and gave off fire and flair that many of India’s youth, currently agitating on the streets, would be envious of. Like the grannies of Shaheen Bagh, the 76-year-old Congress MP from Himachal Pradesh brought to the august House a whiff of what this nation’s elders should be doing in aid of preserving enshrined constitutional values.

Ever the doughty fighter, Thakur held her ground and asked her challengers to shut up and sit down when she was heckled from the word go, beginning as she did by wondering what was there to thank in the President’s address filled with the litany of “repainted” schemes of the Modi government.

On Friday, Thakur told The Telegraph over phone that some BJP members told her after her 10-minute speech that “aapne bahut dara diya tha (you gave us a big scare)”.

“I spoke from my heart as it pains me to see the way the social fabric of the country is being torn asunder,” she added.

Thakur is a familiar figure in Parliament and known for fiery speeches. For the benefit of readers elsewhere, this newspaper asked her about the story behind her name, “Viplove”.

She was named after revolution (“viplav” in Hindi, “biplab” in Bengali) by her parents. Thakur’s mother Sarla Sharma was jailed for participating in the Quit India movement in 1942. Her father — known as Comrade Paras Ram — was a member of the undivided Communist Party.

Prime Minister Modi, who rarely misses a chance to take pot shots at Nehru, is well-advised not to cross her path with uncharitable thoughts about the first Prime Minister although she made no reference to Modi in this context.

“I am enraged every time Jawaharlal Nehru is maligned by the BJP leadership,” Thakur said.

Thakur had met Nehru in 1957 when she was 13. Nehru had come to inaugurate the Punjab Assembly, where her mother had been elected on a Congress ticket.

Sarla Sharma, her mother, took Thakur and her sister to a dinner hosted for Nehru by the governor. The then chief minister of Punjab, Partap Singh Kairon, had introduced them to Nehru.

“Panditji spent more time with my sister and me than he did with anyone else that evening. He was very affectionate towards children,” Thakur recalled.

She remembers another anecdote from the dinner. At one point, women legislators were scrambling for a photograph with Nehru and he told them to form a line.

“But when they were still jostling, Panditji told them: ‘Ek line nahi bana sakte, tum kya legislator banoge (You can’t organise a line, how would you become legislators?)’ He turned to us and said: ‘Chalo bachchon. Hamare saath chalo (Come on kids. Come with me),’” Thakur recounted.

A post graduate in political science from Panjab University, Thakur is interested in trekking and mountaineering, skiing, debating, reading and writing. According to PRS Legislative Research, Thakur has clocked 92 per cent attendance in the House, way above the national average of 79 per cent. Not only does she attend the sittings, she also participates in debates and asks questions, again scoring better than the national average on both counts.

“I never read from a prepared text. I prefer extempore. The ruling dispensation ensures there is no dearth of issues,” Thakur, a former MLA and minister in the Himachal Pradesh government, told this newspaper.

She repeated several times: “Yeh log desh ko baant rahe hain (These people are dividing the country).”

Excerpts from MP Viplove Thakur’s speech in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday

  • Today you are sitting here, travel by aircraft, who gave all this? Who made these? The schools, colleges and universities that are there today, who built these? Who made the IITs? Who made the IIMs? Today, you are seen in them, but what have you done in six years? You have only tried to break India, tried to divide India, you have done nothing else.
  • I want to ask, you have a lot of knowledge of history, you tell us who called Mohammed Ghori? Who asked him to attack Delhi? Who was Jaichand? When Maharana Pratap was fighting in Haldighati, which king helped him to battle against Akbar? Only the Bhils stood with Maharana Pratap.
  • Today I want to ask the definition of a traitor. What is the definition of a traitor? Who is called a traitor? I remember when the Communist Party did not accept India’s Independence, it was banned for four years, but Nehru did not call them traitors, the government did not call them traitors. Vajpayee used to speak against Pandit Nehru in the Lok Sabha, he was not called a traitor. Today anybody who speaks against your Prime Minister, your home minister, their policies, they become traitors. Put them in jail, catch them. You are not even sparing 6-year-old children. What will you do?
  • We did not name Pakistan as many times in 70 years as they are doing in six years. Our mahanayika (Indira Gandhi) had split Pakistan into two parts, divided it. They are today scaring in the name of Pakistan and otherwise say, ‘We are very strong’. For everything Pakistan, for everything Pakistan. Why? What is it? Is it related to you? Yes, you did go to Lahore to have biryani (reference to Modi’s surprise Lahore trip on Nawaz Sharif’s birthday). Congress doesn’t feed it. You went without invitation and are now talking.
  • You say that the European Union has no right to speak, to bring a resolution, then why did you bring their MPs here, why did you take them to Kashmir? You yourself invited them. You yourself internationalised it. You yourself called them and others to interfere, others did not call them. As long as our governments were there, nobody dared to even cast a harmful eye on our country. All these, you people have done. To hide your misdeeds….
  • I say to you, don’t divide this country, keep this country’s unity intact. The people that are there in this country are here for ages, they have not come today. Pakistan and Bangladesh, those are Islamic countries, what is there to say about them? We are secular, we believe in dharma. Which dharma are you talking about? Which Ram are you talking about? The one who to keep his maryada had listened to the people? Heeding the people, he sent Sita into exile and you don’t even want to talk (to the people protesting on the streets). What Ram Rajya are you talking about? Who do you worship? Build a temple, definitely build it, but also follow his ideals. Also follow what he said. Just talking will not do, making lofty speeches will not do.

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