New Delhi: The 44 BJP MPs who participated in the parliamentary debates on the motion of thanks on the President’s address referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi 420 times in their speeches — an average of nine references by each MP.
ThePrint analysed the speeches by BJP MPs in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, and counted all the references made to ‘Modi ji’, ‘Prime Minister’ or ‘Pradhan Mantri’. The President’s address was discussed in the Lok Sabha on 8 and 9 February, and in the Rajya Sabha from 3 to 5 February. BJP MPs made a total of 253 references to the PM in the Lok Sabha, and 167 in the Rajya Sabha.
President Ram Nath Kovind had addressed a joint sitting of both houses of Parliament on 29 January, following which discussions took place as part of the ‘motion of thanks’ to his speech. The President’s address is an important part of a parliament session, as elaborated upon in Article 86 and 87 of the Constitution.
According to the Rajya Sabha website, the scope of the discussion on the President’s address is “very wide” and “members are at liberty to speak on every matter of national or international importance and other issues”. Most BJP MPs, however, stuck to talking about the PM and his vision.
Members of 18 opposition parties, including the Congress, Trinamool Congress, Peoples Democratic Party and others boycotted the President’s address to register their protests against the farm laws.
In the Lok Sabha, 25 BJP MPs took the floor, and almost all of them made several references to the PM. But Locket Chatterjee, the MP from West Bengal’s Hooghly, topped the list across both houses of Parliament, mentioning the PM 43 times in her speech. Chatterjee spoke of how Modi is inspired by Swami Vivekananda’s philosophy that “in a conflict between the heart and brain, follow your heart”, especially in the Covid pandemic.
“In difficult times, he didn’t listen to his brain, but his heart. It is his due to his foresight that he enforced the nationwide lockdown,” she said.
Others in the top five included Jagdambika Pal from Domariyaganj, Uttar Pradesh, who made 27 references to the PM; Dilip Saikia from Assam’s Mangaldai with 23; former Union minister of state P.P. Chaudhary from Pali, Rajasthan, with 16 references; and Rita Bahuguna Joshi from UP’s Allahabad constituency who mentioned PM Modi 14 times.
In fact, Saikia began his speech by thanking the PM, and had already racked up six references in the first two minutes.
“I would like to thank the PM on behalf of the House and all the people of the country because when the world was struggling with coronavirus, it was our PM’s vision because of which we have been able to maintain such a low mortality rate,” he said at the beginning of his speech.
In the Rajya Sabha, 19 BJP MPs spoke during the discussion on the President’s address. Of these, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar made the highest number of references to the PM — 22.
In his speech on 5 February, Tomar spoke about and defended the controversial farm laws at length, and stressed that PM Modi “is committed towards welfare of farmers”.
Indu Bala Goswami, Rajya Sabha MP from Himachal Pradesh, mentioned the PM 19 times, while Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan made 12 references.
Significance of the repeated mentions
According to political analyst and brand expert Dilip Cherian, the repeated mention of the PM’s name is a sign of two things. “One, of course it reflects the culture in the party where every member is encouraged to take the PM’s name repeatedly. And second, it shows that he is such a dominant force that almost every policy has his imprint on it,” Cherian told ThePrint.
He added that the “imitation factor” also has a role in why BJP MPs took the PM’s name so many times. “The imitation factor comes into play — when you see every person before you taking the PM’s name, you will feel compelled to mimic that. Especially if people who are more powerful than you are doing it. But if no one does it, then you don’t want to stand out and seem like a ‘chamcha (sycophant)’ by constantly taking the PM’s name,” he said.
Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill said it is “not a surprising coincidence that BJP MPs in a chorus sang their supreme leader’s name”.
“It is an open secret that BJP has shifted tectonically from being an ideology-based, cadre-based party to an individual-centric party, where the primary task and duty of the members is to chant the name of their supreme leader rather than serving the nation and upholding the Constitution,” Shergill said. “In the BJP, Modi is the message and the messenger.”
However, the BJP said the repeated mentions of the PM by its MPs were the “individual’s choice”.
“It’s about each MP’s preference. But the idea is that the PM is a symbol of credibility in the hearts and minds of the public. So when a leader takes the PM’s name to convey their point, it immediately brings strength, clarity and credibility to the speech as well,” said Narendra Taneja, BJP spokesperson. “His reach and the power of his vision are undisputed.”