It was back to the familiar cycle of raucous protests and walkouts in Parliament on Thursday with the Congress protesting against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks on his predecessor Manmohan Singh in Rajya Sabha. On Wednesday, Mr Modi said that “people should learn from Dr Singh how to bathe in bathroom wearing a raincoat”, alluding to his blemish-free reputation while heading a “scam-riddled” government.
The comment — not as acerbic as some of the ones that have been made against Mr Modi by the Opposition many times in recent years — led to the Congress stalling proceedings in the upper house and staging protests in the lower. The issue could lead to further disruptions when the House reconvenes on March 9: The Congress has said that it will boycott Mr Modi for rest of the budget session. The session is going into a recess in order to enable the standing committees to consider the demands for grants of ministries/departments and prepare their reports.
If we sift through contemporary political history, here’s what Opposition leaders have called Mr Modi: A snake, a scorpion, and bhasmasur, the demon. After the surgical strikes along the LoC, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi said: “Jinhone Hindustan ke liye surgical strike kiye hain, unke khoon ke peeche aap chhupe hain. Unki aap dalali kar rahe ho.” (You are hiding behind the blood of soldiers who carried out the surgical strikes for India. You are dealing in their blood).
Speaking to reporters outside Parliament in November, Mr Gandhi referred to Mr Modi’s video-address at the Global Citizen Festival in Mumbai and said: “He can speak on TV, he can speak in pop concerts, then why not in Parliament?”
In contrast to such derogatory expressions and strong attacks, Mr Modi’s description of Mr Singh was a sedate one, almost taking us back to those times when humour and wit — as opposed to caustic diatribe — was used in Parliament to needle the Opposition.
Reacting to the PM’s comment, Mr Gandhi tweeted: “When a Prime Minister reduces himself to ridiculing his predecessor — years his senior, he hurts the dignity of the parliament &the nation”. In other words: Mr Modi should not have picked on Mr Singh just because, well, the former PM is senior in age. This is hardly a strong defence. Moreover, such an ageist parameter is unreasonable and detrimental to the basic nature of a democratic system.
Disruption of Parliament on flimsy grounds only shows that the Congress is clutching at straws to win a political brownie point. Political parties must realise that every disruption costs money. But more than that it delays legislation critical for the voters who send them to the House.