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22 July, 2018 00:00 00 AM
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The Pappu hug

In his 50-minutes address, Rahul endeared himself to the audience, the opposition within the Parliament and the viewers in general
Kumkum Chadha
The Pappu hug

For what was a foregone conclusion turned into a decisive victory after a respectable number stacked in favour of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government a little before midnight on Friday. A surprising number of 325 votes were cast in his favour rejecting the no confidence motion moved by the Opposition against the government.

 That the Government would win the vote was never a worry; as was the fact that it would be in a comfortable position but what was unexpected were the extra numbers that it got into its kitty which helped Modi emerge stronger than before. Like Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s “272” that never were, Modi’s 325 were far off the imagination of even the best of political analysts. But the BJP managed to get AIADMK on board and absentations by two parties helped it thus restoring Modi to a near invincible position yet again. This was way ahead of the 226 that it needed to win: clearly a 99-ahead. In fact numbers dominated the debate even as Modi mentioned Sonia Gandhi’s “arrogance” when she claimed to have the required numbers to defeat the motion: “"Who says we don't have the numbers." Sonia Gandhi had said ahead of the trust vote moved by TDP and backed by the Congress.

Sonia Gandhi had said on the no-trust vote that the government had enough numbers to win: “I was reminded about 1999 the she stood outside Rashtrapati Bhavan and said - we have 272 and more are joining. She destabilised Atalji's government and never formed a government herself," the Prime Minister said.

But the Sonia Gandhi attack was a mere sideshow, a kind of a supporting character to the main players namely Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi.

Till Modi occupied centre-stage when he rose to reply to the debate, Rahul Gandhi dominated the scene. He was the first to speak from the Congress benches and Modi, the last.

In his 50-minutes address, Rahul endeared himself to the audience, the Opposition within the Parliament and the viewers in general who watched the live telecast of every word he spoke. Even the BJP, at least some sections, conceded that Rahul had punched hard. But more than the words and content, it was theatrics that grabbed eyeballs. While putting the government on the mat on the controversial Rafale fighter jet deal for which the Indian government had paid an exorbitant price and preaching the Gandhian philosophy of love your enemy, Rahul stunned and shocked every one: Stunned when he walked across to where the Prime Minister sat and gave him a tight hug; the shocker was his winking at a colleague: both images captured by camera and gone viral through the day.  

This is how it panned out: At the end of his speech, Rahul Gandhi walked across to the other side and gestured with his hands asking Modi to get up. Somewhat taken aback, the Prime Minister did not oblige after which Rahul bent down and hugged Modi, leaving him and the entire House startled. When Modi recovered his composure, he called Rahul Gandhi back as he was heading back to where he had come from, shook hands with him and patted him on the back. But the headlines were made and for a few hours on, it was Rahul all the way.  Everyone was keen to see how Modi would do damage control. But Modi did more than that. He punctured Rahul, the gleeful Congress and the entire Opposition with a blistering attack.

For starters, he spoke of the hug and the wink: deriding both: the hug which he said was the hurry to come to power: “One member comes running to me saying utho,utho, get up…” Modi said reiterating that no one but the people of India can unseat him turning the hug on his head and interpreting the gesture as a bid to grab power. And almost immediately and deftly the Prime Minister turned the tables on Rahul shifting focus from the hug to Rahul’s gesture of signaling him to get up from his seat. Incidentally, the seat Modi occupies in Parliament is designated to be the Prime Minister’s and Rahul asking him to get up, the PM, said was akin to his keenness to occupy it. One must give it to Modi to take advantage of and retrieve what till then seemed a round that had gone Rahul’s way. His reference to being called a pappu, drew laughter. Mosi also succeeded in reducing Rahul’s antics to being childish and bereft of maturity  that  a vast country like India demands and needs. With that Modi,  in one single stroke, demolished the possibility of a kid like Rahul being an alternative  to a seasoned and mature leader like Modi. He used the word bachkana, childish, several times while referring to Rahul and his antics.  

Modi apart, the government too pulled the rug from under the Opposition’s feet when it it readily agreed for a trust vote. The Opposition had not bargained for this and expected to use the Government’s reluctance to obstruct proceedings in the House and thwart its smooth function and in the process get business and bills stalled. But the Government got the better of them when it gave the nod for the no confidence motion. That took the sting out and left the Opposition looking for cover. It also took away any excuse not to let the House run and with the Speaker setting aside Friday, gave the Government one full week to have business transacted in Parliament. The Opposition had no option but to let the House function through the week. In fact the top of the mind news was “House chal raha hai…, the House is functioning: a feat achieved after several sessions: either  disruptive or washed out. Adjournments rather than smooth functioning, it is well known, has eclipsed Indian Parliament in the recent past.  The Government’s calculations were based on taking the Opposition by surprise thus leaving them little time to consolidate its forces. The Opposition could not and even during the debate failed to make points that could puncture the Government’s claims of development, progress and social welfare. In fact what came across was each parties individual interests with TDP asking for special status and others lamenting what the government had promised but not delivered. Therefore even in their coming together, the Opposition remained clearly fragmented, giving the government a handle to hammer the point that the grand opposition alliance for the forthcoming elections is a myth.

 The Government also went for the trust vote on grounds that once out of the way, it would leave the field clear for it to have crucial far reaching bills passed during the monsoon session particularly those pertaining to women including the  triple talaq bill that awaits the Rajya Sabha nod.

 More importantly, they used the debate to give a report card of the government and its achievements and ofcourse the Prime Minister’s oratory and skill to demonstrate that the BJP , despite a dip in its popularity, is still invincible. It is in this context that Modi spoke of 2024 rather than 2019 to drive home the point that the latter is a foregone conclusion and the Opposition should yet again challenge it through a trust vote in 2024. Modi’s confidence, his facts and his word- power put the Opposition in a spot with Rahul Gandhi’s hug, popular as the pappu hug, being a momentary high.

The writer is a senior Indian journalist, political commentator and columnist of The Independent. She can be reached at: (kumkum91@gmail.com)  

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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