PM Modi’s Speech at Red Fort Overshadowed by a Symbolic Empty Chair Message

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Mallikarjun Kharge stayed away and sent out a recorded message

New Delhi:

PM Modi’s Independence Day Speech and Congress President’s Absence

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation on its 77th Independence Day today, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge stayed away and sent out a recorded message, in which he highlighted the role of past Prime Ministers and accused the current government of hounding the opposition.

Empty Chair Sends a Message

A chair with Mallikarjun Kharge’s name was among vacant seats at a section of the historic Red Fort, where PM Modi delivered his speech. He was “under the weather, not feeling well”, said the Congress on his absence.

Hoisting the Flag at Congress Office

Mr Kharge, however, hoisted the flag at the Congress office in Delhi, for the first time as party president. He also attacked the government in his speech – another first for any Congress president in many decades. The Congress has traditionally avoided any criticism or attack on Independence Day, said the party.

Tribute to Freedom Icons

In his video message, Mr Kharge paid tribute to freedom icons like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Maulana Azad, Rajendra Prasad, Sarojini Naidu and BR Ambedkar.

Highlighting Contributions of Former Prime Ministers

He also highlighted the contributions of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and other Congress PMs like Indira Gandhi, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Rajiv Gandhi, PV Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh in nation-building. He even mentioned BJP icon Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Allegations against the Current Government

“Every Prime Minister has contributed to the progress of the nation. Today some people try to say that India has seen development only in the past few years,” the Congress president said, in an apparent swipe at PM Modi.

  • Mr Kharge listed the creation of Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), AIIMS, space and atomic research as signs of progress that he said were undermined by the current government.
  • Nehru, he said, promoted art, culture, and literature in newly independent India.
  • The policies of Lal Bahadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi helped India become atma nirbhar (self-reliant), he said, using one of PM Modi’s key mantras.
  • He accused the current government of erasing past history and renaming schemes and infrastructure projects.
  • He claimed that democracy, Constitution, and autonomous bodies are under serious threat.
  • He criticized the government for targeting the opposition through CBI, Enforcement Directorate and Income Tax raids, weakening the Election Commission, and muzzling opposition MPs.

PM Modi’s Response

PM Modi, in his 10th Independence Day speech, attacked opposition parties, especially the Congress, as he described “corruption, nepotism and appeasement” as the three evils that the country needed to be freed from.

“Some problems became a part of our system in the last 75 years. Some parties follow dynastic politics and the party is of the family, by the family, and for the family,” PM Modi said, not naming the Congress.

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