Congress and BJP were on Thursday locked in fiery exchanges inside and outside Parliament over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “raincoat” jibe at his predecessor Manmohan Singh with the main opposition party joined by others pressing him to apologise for the “insulting” remark.
BJP on its part said Congress had no moral right to preach or give sermons to others and instead demanded it apologise to Parliament and the prime minister for calling him names. BJP President Amit Shah also reminded Rahul Gandhi of the kind of term his mother had used against Modi, an apparent reference to ‘Maut ke saudagar’(merchant of death) remark made by Sonia Gandhi when he was Gujarat Chief Minister.
Congress and other opposition parties forced adjournment of Rajya Sabha twice demanding an apology from Modi over his remarks “insulting” his precedessors even as its Vice-President Rahul Gandhi told a poll rally that the prime minister had lowered the dignity of his office.
Congress, CPI(M) and JD(U) raised the remarks made by Modi in his speech in the Rajya Sabha during the debate on the Motion of Thanks to President’s address yesterday, saying the prime minister was “abusive” and used “insulting” language.
Modi had said that one should learn the art of “bathing with a raincoat on” from Manmohan Singh as there was not a single taint on him despite so many scams having taken place during his regime.
“He has dragged political debate to new low... he was abusive... we will oppose him,” Anand Sharma(Congress) said.
Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said the issue regarding Modi’s remarks was a closed chapter as far as the Chair is concerned. “I cannot reopen a discussion which is concluded... there are so many other ways of raising (your concerns),” he said.
Digvijay Singh (Congress) raised strong objections to Modi’s remarks against Manmohan Singh and another former prime minister Indira Gandhi and demanded they be expunged. Congress members were seen protesting in the aisle, raising “shame, shame” slogans.
Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram while initiating the discussion on the 2017-18 General Budget in Rajya Sabha criticised Modi over the words he chose to attack his predecessor, saying he should remember that the Chair he sat on was used by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and even Atal Bihari Vajpayee and hence he should use right language.
“The Prime Minister’s office is not an ordinary one. Great honour is associated with it. So by targeting his predecessor in that manner the prime minister has lowered the dignity of his office,” Rahul said addressing an election rally in Almora in poll-bound Uttarakhand.
Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu hit out at Congress for obstructing proceedings in both Houses, and said the opposition party had no moral right to preach or give sermons to others and demanded that it apologise to Parliament and the prime minister for calling him names.
Naidu told reporters that the opposition, particularly Congress, should tender an apology for obstructing Parliament and for making uncharitable remarks against the prime minister, “not only now, but also earlier”.
He said the Congress leaders called Modi names umpteen number of times, using all “absurd and cheap words”.
“Let them not teach or preach ‘pravachan’ (sermons) to others,” he said.
“They (Opposition) called him (the PM) ‘Hitler’, ‘Mussolini’, ‘Gaddafi’. They made all sort of meaningless remarks against the Prime Minister. It is a shame. They are not able to understand the reality, creating issue out of non issues, why should the Prime Minister apologise?” Naidu asked.
BJP also fielded Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to launch a sharp attack on Congress, especially its top leaders Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, saying it is no longer a conventional political party representing certain ideology but a “conglomeration believing in divinity and devotion to a family”.
Defending Modi’s dig, Prasad said “fun, pun and repartee” are part of parliamentary debate and suggested that Congress was using Singh as an “useful expendable” outsider like many top leaders outside the Gandhi family.
“We are very very disappointed by what the PM said yesterday. I do not think in the history of Indian parliamentary democracy, we have ever heard the PM insulting his predecessor in such a manner using bathroom analogy. This is simply not heard of (before),” Congress MP Sashi Tharoor said outside Parliament.