Opposition turns the heat on Modi over raincoat remark
The last day of the Budget Session began on expected lines. The Opposition, led by the Congress, stalled both houses of Parliament over Prime Minister Narendra Modi's remarks on his predecessor Manmohan Singh. Later though the sessions resumed.
Demanding an apology from the prime minister, leaders of the Congress rushed to the well of the house raising slogans. Thereafter, both the houses of Parliament were adjourned and are expected to meet later. However, in the present scenario, it is unlikely that the Opposition will allow Parliament to function smoothly.
On Wednesday, the prime minister in his reply to the motion on President's address in Rajya Sabha said that Singh knows the art of 'bathing with a raincoat on' which infuriated the Congress and led to a series of walkouts by Opposition parties.
"Bathroom mein raincoat pehen kar ke nahana, yeh kala to Doctor Saab hi jaante hain aur koi nahin jaanta hai (Only Dr Saab is well adept in the art of bathing while wearing a raincoat in the bathroom)," said Modi.
"It's probably the only time in the country's 70-year history that one man was involved in most of the financial decisions taken for over 35 years. For 30 to 35 years, Manmohan Singhji had a lot of influence on the country's economic policies. Even though there were many scams, there was not a single corruption charge against him," he added.
As soon as the PM made these comments, Congress MPs lost their cool and walked out of the Rajya Sabha in protest.
Later, the senior leaders of the grand old party claimed that they would boycott the prime minister in Parliament until he apologised for his comments against the two-time former prime minister.
Modi was referring to the numerous scams that transpired under Singh's watch when he was the prime minister from 2004 to 2014. The Congress takes strong exceptions to any allegations of impropriety against the former prime minister while BJP has repeatedly maintained that Singh cannot be exempted from taking responsibility for the 2G spectrum case and telecom licences, coal block allocations, among various other scams that surfaced during the UPA regime.
The BJP, led by the prime minister, yet again tried to bring up this issue, but the Congress raised strong objections to Modi's use of words calling it a personal attack on Dr Singh. The PM's comments sparked an outrage amongst the Congress leaders who criticised Modi for his arrogance and for taking the debate to the lowest level.
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi was quick to react when he tweeted -
When a Prime Minister reduces himself to ridiculing his predecessor-years his senior,he hurts the dignity of the parliament &the nation— Office of RG (@OfficeOfRG) February 8, 2017
He demeans his position and himself more than anyone else. Today's events were saddening and frankly; they were shameful— Office of RG (@OfficeOfRG) February 8, 2017
When asked for his reactions on the jibe made by the prime minister, Manmohan Singh said that he didn't want to comment.
Meanwhile, unlike the former prime minister, other senior leaders of the Congress took strong exceptions to the prime minister's remarks and lashed out at Modi for his "arrogance" and how his choice of words is unbecoming of a prime minister.
While speaking to media, former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram said, "He doesn't come to the House to listen to anyone from the Opposition speak. Today, he was scheduled to come at 5 pm, but he deliberately did not come. He came to the House only after the last speaker of the Opposition had concluded. And then he begins his speech. Within minutes of his speech, he attacks the former prime minister in the most unacceptable manner."
Chidambaram went on to add that it was unbecoming of the prime minister to use such language for his predecessor. "We are very, very disappointed; very, very angry with what the PM said, and we expressed our protest by walking out," he said.
Even senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal said that such arrogance by a prime minister is unprecedented and claimed, "This is an insult of the House. It is arrogance. He should realise that he is the Prime Minister of India. The post of Prime Minister has prestige. But, the Prime Minister addresses Parliament as if he is speaking in a maidan. It is as if he is pure and we are all black marketeers."
Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala also took to Twitter to express his displeasure over the remarks made by Modi and said -
PM is not a person but an institution it has a decorum, propriety,morality & discipline in language.Sadly,Modi ji forgets he is PM of India! pic.twitter.com/nhuDKbCSGb— Randeep S Surjewala (@rssurjewala) February 8, 2017
It remains to be seen whether the Congress continues to boycott the prime minister when both the Houses of Parliament convene again before the end of May.
Under the prevailing circumstances, it is unlikely that the grand old party would let go of this opportunity to corner the prime minister and push for an apology for his remarks.
Edited by Jhinuk Sen