Saturday, 21 July 2018 | PNS | New Delhi–
Barbs, jibes, hugs, and wink — Congress president Rahul Gandhi exhibited a range of interesting repertoires to hog the limelight while delivering a spirited speech in the Lok Sabha on Friday during the debate on No-Confidence Motion against the Modi Government. While the Government’s victory in the voting was a forgone conclusion, Rahul’s clearly stole the show by his all-round performance, culminating in a ‘forced’ hug to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Rahul pulled out all stops to attack the Prime Minister, accusing him of practising “jumlebazi” and not fulfilling poll promises, favouring a particular businessman in the Rafale deal, and keeping “silent” while the country witnessed unprecedented lynching, and violence against women under his rule.
Rahul created furore when he accused the PM of benefitting a particular businessman by taking away Rafale fighter jet contract from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), an Indian State-owned aerospace and defence company headquartered in Bangalore. He said the French President had told him there was no “secrecy” clause in the Government-to-Government deal the PM had inked with the French Government.
The Congress leader alleged that Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was not telling the truth about the price of the fighter jet under the pressure from the Prime Minster.
The Congress president’s comments evoked uproarious scenes in the House with the BJP members rising in protest and an angry Sitharaman saying “he is misleading the House”.
Rahul, however, continued with his fusillade and charged that the businessman, who also contributed to building the “image” of the Prime Minister, gained by an estimated Rs 45,000 crore in the Rafale purchase.
“The Defence Minister has spoken ‘untruth’….The French Prime Minister has personally told me that there is no secret pact between the Indian and the French Governments,” he said demanding that the Prime Minister must answer why this contract was given to a particular businessman after taking it away from the HAL.
“Everybody understands the relationship the Prime Minister has with certain people. Everybody understands the amount of money that goes into the marketing of the Prime Minister and everybody knows who have funded that. One of those people was given the Rafale contract.
The gentleman benefitted to the tune of Rs 45,000 crore,” he alleged.
“The PM has a smile … he knows,” said Rahul, adding “The PM cannot see eye to eye”. Modi kept smiling while Rahul was delivering his speech.
“Chokidar nahin hain bhagidar hain”, Rahul said recalling that Modi had promised he would not allow corruption in the country.
Rising in support of the No-Confidence Motion moved by the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Rahul said the TDP like many others was “a victim of BJP’s political weapon called ‘jumla (gimmick) strike’.”
“You are a victim of the 21st century political weapon. The political weapon is the ‘jumla strike’. There are many many more victims like you,” he said, adding that the farmers, the youth, the Dalits, tribals and women are also the victims of this weapon of the Government.
The Congress chief referred to the amount of Rs 15 lakh that was promised to every Indian by the BJP before coming to power after bringing in all black money stashed abroad, and termed it as “jumla strike number one’.
Raising the issue of joblessness which he termed as ‘jumla strike 2’, Gandhi said against the promise of providing two crore jobs every year, only 4 lakh jobs have been created. He also alleged that unemployment was at its peak in last four years under Modi.
He said loans of corporates worth over Rs 2.5 lakh crore were waived by the Modi Government, which did not agree to loan waivers for farmers.
He also raised the issue of the Prime Minister’s foreign tours and accused him of not raising the Doklam issue during his ‘without-agenda’ China visit.
When some members of the Treasury Benches tried to intervene and accuse him of speaking “unsubstantiated facts”, he retorted saying “daro mat, daro mat…sach se daro mat” (Don’t be afraid of the truth).
The House was adjourned for about 10 minutes after Rahul made a series of accusations in context of Rafale deal as the Prime Minister sat in his seat with Home Minister and Defence Minister around him.
When the House resumed, Rahul said for the first time in history “India has not been able to protect women” with women subjected to gangrapes and Dalits and minorities being crushed and Ministers garlanding the accused. At this stage, Union Minister Jayant Sinha, who was seen garlanding accused acquitted by the courts, stood up to protest. Rahul said all this while the PM has kept mum and not uttered a word against the violence in the country.
Rahul claimed that Modi and the BJP president were “ different kind of politicians” who unlike him (Rahul) could not afford to lose power as they know there was anger brewing against them and due process would set against them (if not in power).
He also claimed that not only the Congress but many within the BJP also want change saying during the brief adjournment many from the Treasury side congratulated him.
At the end of his speech, Rahul walked across the green-carpeted well of the Lok Sabha to Modi and hugged him, a gesture which took the Treasury Bench members and the Prime Minister himself by surprise.
The unexpected gesture of the Congress president quickly became a favoured video clip for television channels.
Modi initially looked nonplussed and did not stand up to hug him, but recovered quickly and called Gandhi back and patted him on the back. He also appeared to say a few words, which were inaudible.
BJP MPs sitting behind Modi watched the brief interaction open-mouthed as the Prime Minister smiled at Rahul as he walked back to his seat.
“This is what it means to be a Hindu,” Rahul said after coming back to his seat amid applause from his party members, including his mother Sonia Gandhi and other leaders present who heartily thumped their desks.
Sharply criticised for his reported remarks that “Congress is a Muslim party”, Gandhi said, “Prime Minister Modi, BJP and …Have taught me what it means to be a Congress person, the meaning of being a real Indian, and what it means to be a real Hindu. For this, I thank them.”
He also said his opponents may hate him, call him “Pappu” but he has no anger, hatred against the Prime Minister and the BJP.
This is likely the first time that an Opposition leader has hugged the Prime Minister in the House, especially during a No-Confidence Motion. Akali Dal leader Harsimrat Kaur stood up and took objection to Rahul’s hug. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan also gently reminded Rahul that this was the country’s legislature and not a place for such gestures.
Rahul’s House speech soon spilled all over in the social media with Twitter abuzz with jokes aplenty and the hashtags “pappukijhappi” and “hugplomacy” trending on the microblogging site.
Many remembered “Munnabhai”, the character from the eponymous Bollywood film who hugged his opponents in a bid to win them over and prove the relevance of Gandhian values.
“@narendramodi gets a taste of his own hugs from @RahulGandhi! And that too minutes after @HarsimratBadal_ said that Parliament is not for “Munna Bhai’s puppy- jhappis,” a Twitter user said.
Another user Ankur Singh tweeted, “even more awkward hug #Hugplomacy.”
“Pappu becomes Munna Bhai!” Sitanshu Shukla said.
Given Modi’s visible surprise, one user brought up the issue of consent and called it the “most forced hug” of all time.
Priyanka Bansal tweeted, “The most forced hug of all times probably. Consent Ka kya, Mr Gandhi?#NoConfidenceMotion #PappuKiJhappi”
Rahul later appeared to be winking, a picture which went viral with Twitter users drawing a parallel between the Congress president and Malayalam actor Priya Prakash Varrier who became an internet sensation with her wink from a film song, “Manikya Malaraya Poovi”.
“Rahul Gandhi’s Priya Varrier moment after ‘The Hug’ #ModiTrustVote,” Vipin Vijayan tweeted.
Another Twitter user, Harsh Singhavi said, “Pappu is learning from priya”.
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