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Rahul grates on PM nerves

Published On : 04 Mar 2016   |  Reported By : Courtesy : The Telegraph   |  Pic On: Photo credit : The Telegraph

New Delhi, March 3: Courtesy Rahul Gandhi, someone in the Prime Minister's Office had to burn the oil long and late into last night. That oil Prime Minister Narendra Modi brought to drop on the Lok Sabha floor this afternoon.

The many blows Rahul had rained on him yesterday, Modi returned with a gift of blisters. The severest of them ventured close to calling the Congress vice-president an airhead.

"The case with some people is, they grow older but their minds don't," Modi said to audible relish from the treasury benches.

Modi added: "They take a long time to understand. And because they can't understand, the only thing they can do is oppose and make fun, they even make fun of Make In India."

Rahul had mocked the Make In India logo yesterday, describing it as a "black lion with clockwork wheels which Modi keeps showing everywhere but which delivers no jobs".

Modi mocked Rahul back saying the Congress was not disrupting Parliament because it was opposed to government policy but because Rahul was insecure.

"There is a lot of talent in this House but it is not allowed to speak because some people think what will happen to them if others begin to display their worth... woh sochte hain, phir hamara kya hoga, that is their real worry. Some people suffer a strange inferiority complex, and Parliament has to suffer for it."

Applause again from the treasury; this was to be another afternoon of jibes, jousting and jeering. But it was Prime Minister Modi's turn at it, and he has far greater numbers behind him, far louder decibels.

Sonia Gandhi sat visibly affronted, but silent. Two rows behind her, Rahul sat a little stunned by the bellicose assault. But he also might have felt entitled to believe he had finally got under the Prime Minister's skin and hogged more than half his discourse on the President's address.

The Prime Minister spoke for close to 90 minutes; its core content was an elaborate, and often histrionic, rebuttal to Rahul Gandhi. At one point, Modi turned to admonish his younger adversary as an adult would admonish youthful delinquency.

"Some people have given up on respect and regard of elders, it is of no value to them," he said, referring to Rahul Gandhi's dramatic rejection of the ordinance on convicted politicians.

"The nation will never forget the day a decision taken by Manmohan Singh and his cabinet was insulted. The Prime Minister was in the US, and here someone publicly tore apart that cabinet decision.... Such are some people."

He even had the date of Rahul's defiant act right: September 27, 2013, a day "the nation shall never forget".

Someone in the PMO had indeed been hard at research, excavating the past for what their boss could helpfully fling across the Lok Sabha aisles. Delectable nuggets had been located and neatly laid out on a succession of sheets for the Prime Minister to let fly.

Modi used it artfully, quoting past generations of Nehru-Gandhis to mock the family's successor generations. Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, all quoted from different eras warning the Opposition for disrupting Parliament and therefore disrupting the nation.

Modi would read out an unattributed quote from his papers, then turn to the Congress benches and say, "This is not Narendra Modi saying it, this is the respected Nehruji, this is not Modi speaking, this is Indira Gandhi, this is not Modi, this is Rajiv Gandhi.... All these people wanted to run Parliament, this Congress does not want to. I do not know what it is trying to achieve."

For a while, at the start, the Prime minister played elder statesman, appealing to fellow parliamentarians to shun the "tu-tu, main-main", rise above partisan differences in the "larger national interest".

He even proposed, as attestation to his willingness to turn Parliament multi-partisan and productive, that only women members be called upon to speak on March 8, which is International Women's Day, that a week be set aside to let only first-time MPs have their say because "we need fresh air to waft through these houses", that there be a resolve to work some Saturdays to discuss global concerns like climate change, water and related issues.

But having urged Parliament to elevate itself above party fences, Modi proceeded to score low blows such as he particularly delivered on Rahul Gandhi.

He had also come prepped to twist a sardonic sword into the predecessor UPA government.

"I keep hearing they have done everything, that they have given this nation everything; every time we do something they say they had originally done it. They will probably even say they gave us the railways. I cannot make such claims, but they can. They can claim anything."

The treasury thumped the desks, the Congress benches shifted uncomfortably. "I agree, when they claim to have given the country much," the Prime Minister waged on.

"They have given us schools without toilets and villages without electricity. They have given us poverty. In 60 years they have dug the roots of poverty so deep it cannot be uprooted. Modi will probably be uprooted one day, but not poverty. That is what the Congress have given us. I repeat that their welfare programmes are monuments of shame, not monuments of pride. After 60 years, people still have to earn money lifting mud on their heads, I consider that a shame."

Modi wondered what the Congress was gaining from opposing legislation "required to push" the nation.

"Whose interests are being served by blocking GST, or the inland waterways bill, or the consumer protection bill? Who is suffering from this?" the Prime Minister wondered.

"This nation has to move and my appeal to all of you is to join hands in that effort, that is my sincere appeal."

The Prime Minister was still raging when he finished, his splayed palms quivering. Rahul Gandhi has begun to smile. The arrows he'd flung yesterday had caused injury where he meant it. The insult that came his way today was merely its consequence.

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