Beyond hugs and winks: What Rahul Gandhi could have taken up in his No Confidence speech
With Dalits and minorities increasingly under attack, the Congress President seemed to focus more on the Rafale deal.
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"You may call me Pappu, but I don't hate you," Rahul Gandhi said while speaking during the No-Confidence motion on the floor of the Lok Sabha.
The Congress President, in a rather combative avatar, took on the Modi government with a no holds barred attack.
Using the opportunity to talk about several issues that the Opposition had been accusing the government of not responding to, Rahul not only attacked the Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his government's performance but also took on the BJP President Amit Shah.
While the ruling BJP has been quite confident over winning the trust vote, the opposition had hoped to use the occasion to force the ruling party to respond to issues ranging from lynchings, to the economy, to job creation, to crony capitalism to nepotism.
Speaking after TDP MP Jayadev Galla, whose party had brought the no-confidence motion, Rahul said he felt the MP's pain and his party was facing a new 21st century political weapon called "jumla" strike, in an obvious jibe at the ruling establishment.
Taking on the PM, the Congress President raised the issue of job creation and accused the Modi government for taking the youths for a ride, a section of voters that voted overwhelmingly for the BJP, buying the slogan of "achhe din".
Speaking of BJP's fear of losing power, Rahul said the ruling establishment's fear of being voted out was turning into anger.
Taking on the government over women safety, Rahul said that never have the women in the country felt this unsafe.
Rahul asked the PM why was he silent when Dalits and minorities were increasingly coming under attack, while his ministers go and garland the convicts.
Chowkidaar to Bhagidaar
In a stark departure from some of his previous speeches where the Gandhi scion was known to either fumble or take rather liberal help of notes, Rahul seemed to enjoy his speech. Taking on Modi directly, Rahul accused the PM of benefitting some "suit-boot" businessmen while destroying the informal business sector through demonetisation.
Picking up the Rafale deal, Rahul used the opportunity to attack PM Modi, alleging that since some "corporate" had a vested interest in the ruling government, the PM went to France and "magically" the cost per aircraft increased.
Gandhi said that instead of HAL, which was originally part of the deal, the contract was swung in the favour of a particular business house, with zero experience in aircraft manufacturing.While the BJP took strong objection to the accusation, with Defence Minsiter Nirmala Sitaraman jumping in the fray and the party deciding to bring a privilege motion against Gandhi, the Congress President would hope that the allegations would put a hole in the incorruptible image of PM Modi.
Facing repeated attacks of rampant corruption during the UPA rule, with the PM recently coming out with a new term to describe the Congress, calling it a party of "naamdaars", the Congress President gave one back by saying that instead of acting like a "chowkidaar", something that the PM had described himself as, Modi was now a "bhagidaar", alleging the PM was now part of the corruption taking place.
The French government has reacted to Rahul's claims in parliament and more or less demolished them, saying that they "have noted the statement of Mr Rahul Gandhi before the Indian Parliament. France and India had concluded in 2008 a Security agreement, which legally binds the two States to protect the classified information provided by the partner."
Hug and wink bromance
The Congress President said he wanted to bring out the love in the heart of his opponents, and holds no grudge against them, adding that love and acceptance is what the Congress stands for.He also "thanked" the BJP for teaching him the true essence of being a Hindu and a Congress member, reiterating the stark difference between the ideologies of Congress and the BJP.
Taking the treasury benches by surprise and startling the PM for a moment, Rahul walked over and hugged Modi.
Providing fodder to netizens for viral memes, Rahul's gesture became the talking point of the day; although his subsequent wink to one of his colleague did undo some of the goodwill he had earned.
Speaker Sumitra Mahajan chastised Gandhi, asking him to stop the "drama", but Rahul seemed unfazed.
Perhaps wanting to send across a message that he did not consider his opponents as political pariahs, Rahul wanted to show he is against an ideology, not individuals.
While we did see a more confident and aggressive Rahul, his speech left the audience wanting for more. Despite the minority community and Dalits increasingly coming under vigilante attacks, the Congress President seemed to focus more on Rafale deal and Amit Shah's son — issues that would blunt the BJP's corruption charge against the Congress.
With Modi already pushing Congress to a corner over minority appeasement, Rahul perhaps wanted to stay away from topics that would prove the BJP's charge right.While it may have been a pragmatic political decision, it was unfair to the party's secular image and vote bank, which it swears by.