New Delhi: Congress president Rahul Gandhi Friday hugged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and later appeared to wink in some dramatic moments in the Lok Sabha, capping his blistering attack on the BJP mascot, accusing him of being a bhagidar’ (collaborator) in corruption and not a ‘chowkidar’ and saying people were victims of his ‘jumla’ strikes.
Gandhi’s no-holds barred attack at Modi on a range of issues including the controversial Rafale jet deal in his hour-long speech during a debate on the no-confidence motion against the government often sparked loud protests from the treasury benches, but it was his walk across the green-carpeted Well of House at the end to hug Modi that left almost everyone, not the least the prime minister, surprised.
Modi shook Gandhi’s hands but ignored his call to stand so that he could hug the BJP leader. The Congress chief, however, embraced him as he remained seated.
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
Gandhi presented it as his show of love for the BJP despite its “abuses”, including calling him ‘pappu’, “hate” and “anger”.He said he was thankful to the BJP and the RSS for teaching him the meaning of Lord Shiva and what it means to be a Hindu and a Congressman.
“This is what it means to be a Hindu,” Gandhi said after returning to his seat amid applause from his party members, including his mother Sonia Gandhi and other leaders present who heartily thumped their desks.
As Gandhi took his seat, he appeared to wink.
Speaker Sumitra Mahajan later disapproved of his conduct, saying it was against the parliamentary decorum. Mahajan said she was not opposed to Gandhi’s hug but felt decorum must be maintained when it involved the prime minister.
Gandhi’s gesture was described as “childish behaviour” by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Anant Kumar while Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia rejected suggestions that it was preplanned, saying it happened at the spurt of the moment.
Supporting the no-confidence motion, which was first moved by the Telugu Desam Party, he said TDP like many others was a “victim” of BJP’s political weapon called ‘jumla strike’ (gimmickery), “a fantastic political weapon of 21st century”.
Taking on the government on the alleged graft in Rafale jet deal with France, Gandhi said, “I have no hesitation in saying that… under pressure from the prime minister, Nirmala Sitharaman spoke untruth to the people. Who are being helped? Nirmala ji, PM ji, please tell the country.”
He said the prime minister had promised to be a ‘chowkidar’ but had become a ‘bhagidar’.
Gandhi’s speech was marked by noisy protests from the treasury benches as he targeted Modi and projected the RSS, BJP and its top leaders as agents of “anger and hatred”.
He claimed he was expressing the sentiments of a section of the ruling party also, asserting the entire opposition and “some of your people (BJP)” will join hands to defeat them in the elections.
Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah were “different types of politicians” as they cannot afford to lose power unlike the Congress which is okay to losing it and being in and out of power.
The BJP leaders have been acting “out of fear” as “other processes” will start if they lose power and this has generated anger which is “crushing” India, Gandhi said.
Gandhi said he had asked the French president about the Indian government’s claim that it cannot share the price details due to a secrecy pact between India and France. The French leader told him that there was no such pact, he claimed.
“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 industrialist is under a debt of Rs 35,000 crore and has never built an aircraft, he said.
Targeting Modi, he said, “I can see him smiling. There is a touch of nervousness. He is looking away, not looking into my eyes,” intensifying protests from treasury benches.
This is truth, he is not a ‘chowkidar’ but a ‘bhagidaar’ (collaborator), he said.
Ananth Kumar accused Gandhi of making “defamatory” statements in violation of parliamentary rules.
Gandhi also accused Modi of “betraying” Indian soldiers who stood up to the Chinese army in Dokalam by talking to the Chinese president without any agenda.
When he accused Modi of benefitting his “friends” by not reducing the oil prices when they went down globally, protests erupted again.
Kumar said he must give evidence to back his allegations and the Speaker was forced to adjourn the House briefly with Gandhi telling treasury benches “daro mat, daro mat … Sach se daro mat (don’t be afraid of truth).”
As the House resumed following a brief adjournment, Mahajan said there should be evidence if direct allegations are levelled.
Dalits, tribals, farmers, minorities, youths and women felt left out in this government, he said.
He also raised the alleged financial irregularities involving son of Amit Shah, whom he described as a friend of Modi, and said the prime minister did not utter a word when the turnover of Shah’s son’s firm rose dramatically.