With only months to go before a make-or-break election for the president of Indian National Congress, Rahul Gandhi today made a speech that managed to get under the skin of BJP leaders, marking a departure from the past when the saffron party has largely been content to dismiss his allegations as non-serious.
What agitated the BJP members of the Lok Sabha was Rahul Gandhi’s allegation that the government headed by Narendra Modi had handed over a lucrative defense contract related to the acquisition of Rafale aircraft to a private industrialist.
This is not the first time that Gandhi has made the allegation, but it is the first time that he’s made the allegation on such a prominent occasion.
The house was adjourned after MPs belonging to the ruling party vociferously protested the allegations.
“Even if Narendra Modi was smiling and laughing at Rahul Gandhi, it’s clear that he managed to get under the skin of quite a few BJP MPs, who were heckling and shouting him down constantly,” pointed out journalist Rupa Subramanya on Twitter.
Gandhi, whose parliamentary speeches have always been seen as rather hesitant, and far from confident, managed to win support on social media.
“Don’t know if this resonates with voters, but this is a very good performance. I personally have not seen him this effective in parliament before today,” Subramanya added.
“What a moment! A hug after a scathing attack. Rahul Gandhi did create earthquake,” said Marya Shakil, political editor of CNN-News18 news channel, adding that it was now over to Modi to come up with a reply.
“Must appreciate Rahul Gandhi for his flawless speech,” said journalist Asha Jha. “Kudos to you, Rahul Gandhi.. more than expected.”
Sumanth Raman, also a journalist, called his move to hug Modi “audacious”.
“I’ve been saying this for over 18 months. That he’s getting there. Today was just a virtuso performance. And walking across to hug the PM was audacious.”
The speech seemed to have impressed some of the rival parties too.
Shiv Sena MP Anandrao Adsul, part of the treasury benches, said such speeches could do some damage to the ruling coalition.
“The topics that Rahul Gandhi had raised today, did have some base,” he said in an interview. “The image that PM Modi and BJP govt have created can be damaged with such allegations.”
Others who lauded the speech were RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, who credited Gandhi with ‘unearthing BJP’s mines of lies”.
For now, though, the BJP leaders are tight-lipped on the entire episode, and have indicated that Rahul will get his reply when Modi takes the mic in the afternoon.