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PM Narendra Modi Cites Manmohan Singh’s 2006 Speech In Jibe At Congress, Here’s What The Former PM Actually Said

Authors

Kushel HM is a mechanical engineer-turned-journalist, who loves all things football, tennis and films. He was with the news desk at the Hindustan Times, Mumbai, before joining Newschecker.

Ruby leads editorial, operations and initiatives at Newschecker. In her former avatar at New Delhi Television (NDTV), India’s leading national news network, she was a news anchor, supervising producer and senior output editor. Her over a decade-long career encompasses ground-breaking reportage from conflict zones and reporting on terror incidents, election campaigns, and gender issues. Ruby is an Emmy-nominated producer and has handled both local and international assignments, including the coverage of Arab Spring in 2011, the US Presidential elections in 2016, and ground reportage on the Kashmir issue since 2009.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s sharp criticism of the Congress during an election rally in Rajasthan ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections has ignited a significant controversy surrounding minority politics. Citing a 2006 speech by former PM Manmohan Singh, Modi alleged that Singh had said that Muslims held “the first right on the country’s resources”. The PM is also facing widespread criticism for using words such as “infiltrators” in an apparent reference to the Muslim community.  

To comprehend the events of 2006, we did a deep dive into the exact statements made by the former Prime Minister.

What Did PM Modi Say About Manmohan Singh?

Speaking at a public rally in Banswara before the second phase of the Lok Sabha elections on April 26, PM Modi questioned the audience, saying in Hindi, “Pehle jab unki sarkar thi to unhone kaha tha ki desh ki sampatti par pehla adhikaar Musalmano ka hai. Iska matlab yeh sampatti ikatthi karke kisko baatenge. Jinke zyada bacche hain unko baate jaayenge. Guspaithion ko baantenge ..Kya aapki kamai ka paisa ghuspaithion ko diya jayega? Aapko manzoor hai yeh?”

The term “Desh ki sampatti” can be translated to wealth of the country, or resources of the nation. The term “Sampatti” also means property in English. An English translation of this is “When their government was in power, they had said that Muslims held the first right to the countries ‘sampatti’(i.e. wealth/ resources/ property) . This means that they will collect this wealth/resources/property and distribute it to whom? Those who have more children. They will distribute it to infiltrators. Will your hard earned money be distributed to infiltrators? Is this acceptable to all of you?”

These remarks by PM Modi, seen around 28 minutes and 45 seconds into the video linked above, have caused widespread uproar, prompting calls from the Opposition for the Election Commission of India (ECI) to “wake up” and take action against the “hate speech”.

Subsequently, the BJP shared a 22-second video of Dr Singh’s speech on Twitter from a December 2006 meeting of the National Development Council on the government’s fiscal priorities.

The post on X (formerly Twitter) containing the video quickly gained traction, with numerous users, including verified accounts, citing it as evidence that Modi’s predecessor had explicitly asserted the  “first right” of Muslims to the nation’s resources.

Several users on X paraphrased the statement from the video, raising concerns about potential misinterpretation. We examined the original statement to ascertain its precise meaning.

What Did Dr Singh Say

The entire transcript of the PM’s address at the Meeting of National Development Council 2006, uploaded by the PMO on December 9, 2006, can be seen here, where the disputed lines can be seen in the 27th paragraph of the speech.

“We will have to devise innovative plans to ensure that minorities, particularly the Muslim minority, are empowered to share equitably in the fruits of development. They must have the first claim on our resources,” Dr Singh is heard saying in the viral video, indicating that he did not explicitly state that Muslims have first right on resources as claimed.

Dr Singh’s speech had stirred up a hornet’s nest then, according to this NDTV report, dated December 9, 2006, which stated that BJP leaders had called the former PM’s remarks another example of appeasement. Notably, PM Modi, who was then the Chief Minister of Gujarat, had denounced Dr. Singh’s statement, telling mediapersons that a leader in such a significant position should refrain from making such remarks. The BJP had also stated that the then government was playing “votebank politics”. 

Further, Sanjaya Baru, Singh’s media advisor between 2004 and 2008, told NDTV in a report, dated December 10, 2006. stated “The Prime Minister spoke about the need to allocate resources on a priority basis for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, all weaker sections, all minorities, including Muslims. The exact phrase he used there was all minorities, especially Muslims, but there was no statement to the effect that Muslims have the first priority. He talked about scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, all weaker sections, all minorities, especially Muslims”.

The PMO’s Clarification

Newschecker ran a keyword search for “Manmohan Singh Muslims Resources”, which led us to this press note from the PMO, dated December 10, 2006, headlined, “Clarifications on PM’s reference to ‘First Claim On Resources’”.

Terming it as a “deliberate and mischievous misinterpretation of what the Prime Minister said…, an avoidable controversy has been generated”. The note shared by the PMO also stated that former PM Singh’s observations were quoted “out of context”, fuelling a baseless controversy”. It then also shared the full transcript of what Singh had said in his speech.

It further states that the Prime Minister’s mention of “first claim on resources” encompasses all the “priority” sectors mentioned earlier, such as initiatives aimed at the advancement of SCs, STs, OBCs, women, children, and minorities.  

“While better off sections of society will benefit from this process, it is the responsibility of the Government to pay special attention to the welfare of weaker and marginalised sections. The Prime Minister has said on several occasions that ‘India must shine, but shine for all’”, read the press note. 

We then reached out to Sanjaya Baru, who confirmed that the speech was delivered in 2006. Baru also shared with us an excerpt from the transcript of Dr Singh’s speech from the NDC meeting in 2007 on the 11th Five-Year Plan, where the former PM further clarifies his stance.

“…This plan is a plan for the poor. Its focus is on the most marginalised sections of society. The goal of this Plan is to invest in our people to enable them to become active participants in processes of economic growth. The Plan does not attempt to divide our people on the basis of caste, creed, gender or religion. It is, however, a reality that there are certain social groups who are relatively badly placed on all developmental indicators. The Plan does pay special attention to the needs of these marginalised groups and targets them in a precise manner. This is, after all, the true meaning of inclusiveness. Inclusiveness does mean better targeting. And it is not at the cost of other groups. You will all agree that if we hope to have a prosperous, equitable, just India, we must cover all groups and ensure that no one is being left behind…,” read the excerpt, which emphasises the government’s focus on marginalised sections of society without singling out any particular group.

Baru also confirmed that although he had served as a scriptwriter for many of PM Manmohan Singh’s speeches, he did not write this particular one.

Several media outlets have also covered Modi’s controversial speech and referenced Dr. Singh’s statement, which sparked a controversy back in 2006, with reference to the clarification issued by the PMO at that time. These reports can be found here, here and here.

Also Read: Lok Sabha Polls: Old Video Falsely Linked To PM Modi’s Rally In Jalore


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Authors

Kushel HM is a mechanical engineer-turned-journalist, who loves all things football, tennis and films. He was with the news desk at the Hindustan Times, Mumbai, before joining Newschecker.

Ruby leads editorial, operations and initiatives at Newschecker. In her former avatar at New Delhi Television (NDTV), India’s leading national news network, she was a news anchor, supervising producer and senior output editor. Her over a decade-long career encompasses ground-breaking reportage from conflict zones and reporting on terror incidents, election campaigns, and gender issues. Ruby is an Emmy-nominated producer and has handled both local and international assignments, including the coverage of Arab Spring in 2011, the US Presidential elections in 2016, and ground reportage on the Kashmir issue since 2009.

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