Prime Minister Narendra Modi today did not mention the crisis with China in his first address to the nation since 20 soldiers were killed in a deadly brawl in the Galwan valley, where satellite images show Chinese incursions.
PM Modi's sixth national address after the coronavirus outbreak focused on unlock2, virus precautions and schemes for the poor. He has, however, spoken twice in other forums on the China standoff -- at an all-party meeting and during his Mann Ki Baat radio talk on Sunday.
A free food grain distribution scheme for 80 crore of India's poorest would be extended until the end of November, covering the Diwali and Chhath festivals, PM Modi announced today. He also urged citizens to continue to wear masks and follow social distancing as the country restarts economic activity. Lakhs of lives had been saved because of the nationwide lockdown since March 25.
At 17 minutes, it was the Prime Minister's shortest address in recent months and surprised many who were expecting a dramatic announcement, either on China or the virus battle.
Among the first to critique the speech was Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who used poetry in his tweet. The Urdu couplet he used was the same quoted by BJP veteran Sushma Swaraj to target the Congress in the past.
Roughly translated, Rahul Gandhi's tweet was this: "Don't beat about the bush, tell us who snatched our land. We have no grudge against those who stole what is ours, but we have questions about your leadership."
तू इधर उधर की न बात कर,— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) June 30, 2020
ये बता कि क़ाफ़िला कैसे लुटा,
मुझे रहज़नों से गिला तो है,
पर तेरी रहबरी का सवाल है।
The Congress party also criticized the PM's speech and said: "We need to move beyond the symbolic gesture of banning 59 Chinese apps; we are importing more from China. Is this our response to 20 bravehearts losing their lives? We need more decisive decisions and real steps.
Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, a fierce critic of the ruling BJP, however, repeated at a press briefing in Kolkata: "We support the government stand on China. We want it implemented in toto."
An outspoken MP of her Trinamool Congress, Mahua Moitra, was less charitable. "Seventeen minutes of walking carefully around the Panda in the room.. Kyon PM Ji- abh kuch kaam ki baat ho jaaye? (Shall we talk more important matters?)" – tweeted Ms Moitra.