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Mainstream, VOL LV No 8 New Delhi February 11, 2017

PM’s Jibe in Parliament

Sunday 12 February 2017, by SC

COMMENTARY

One part of PM Narendra Modi’s speech in the Rajya Sabha during the debate on the motion on the President’s Address to Parliament has caused a veritable political earthquake even if he himself had ridiculed Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi’s assertion that he (Rahul) was not allowed to speak in the Lok Sabha earlier because if he had spoken it would have resulted in an earthquake.

What did the PM say? He targeted former PM Manmohan Singh saying: “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 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.” Thereafter his exact remarks in Hindi were: “Bathroom mein raincoat pehen kar ke nahana, yeh kala to Doctor Saab hi jaante hain aur koi nahin jaanta hai. (Only Dr Saab and none else knows the art of bathing while wearing a raincoat in the bathroom.)”

If one goes only by his utterances one can view these in the same way as some of Narendra Modi’s Ministers who, while stoutly defending him, have stated that his words were in no way violative of parliamentary etiquette and norms. However, one must also take into account his body-language which was, to put it mildly with complete dispassion, most unbecoming of a PM. And this was not the first such instance. His recent remarks about AAP MP Bhagwant Mann in the Lok Sabha, while quoting Charvak’s shloka about the carefree lifestyle of “borrowing money and gulping ghee” were equally unfortunate, to say the least.

As one who has witnessed parliamentary debates since the 1950s one can unequivocally affirm that one has never experienced such a spectacle of a PM acting in the manner he did on February 8, and it compels one to hang one’s head in shame. This is something which is a matter of deep concern for our polity as a whole. In this context the Congress’ demand for an apology from the PM for his action is quite legitimate. (What is most surprising is the defence of his act being put up by two Ministers in the Modi Government while summarily dismissing that demand.)

February 9 s.c.