Outraged over Narendra Modi’s remarks against predecessor Manmohan Singh, the Congress warned on Wednesday that it will not let the Prime Minister speak in Parliament unless he apologises for his “unacceptable” comment.
Congress members in the Rajya Sabha staged a walkout soon after Modi accused Singh of “allowing corruption under his nose but at the same time managing to steer clear” of any charges. The Prime Minister was replying to a debate on the motion of thanks on the President’s address.
Terming the events in Parliament “shameful”, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi tweeted: “When a Prime Minister reduces himself to ridiculing his predecessor-years his senior, he hurts the dignity of the parliament &the nation.”
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
Even though many scams took place in the country (in the previous UPA regime), Singh’s image remained clean, Modi said, taking a dig at the former PM. “People should learn from Dr. Singh how to bathe in bathroom wearing a raincoat.”
“How can you have a dialogue with the opposition with this kind of language used against us… You can’t get personal in a debate,” senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal later told reporters in the Parliament House complex. “We too could get personal and start talking about things where the Prime Minister’s name has occurred but we never did that.”
While Singh did not respond to the Prime Minister’s statement, the Congress fielded all its senior leaders to attack Modi on the issue.
Former finance minister P Chidambaram claimed that the Prime Minister doesn’t come to the House to listen to anyone from the Opposition. “Today, he was scheduled to come in at 5pm. He deliberately did not come at that time and came only after the last speaker from the opposition had concluded. Then he begins his speech and within minutes attacks the former Prime Minister in the most unacceptable manner,” he said.
“It was in extremely poor taste. It is unbecoming of a Prime Minister to use such language against the former PM. It certainly is unbecoming of anyone to say such harsh, ugly statements about Dr Manmohan Singh. We are very disappointed and angry.”
“We have expressed our protest by walking out. We could have stayed back, created a ruckus, stormed the well of the House and shouted down the Prime Minister. But that would have in the circumstances of today brought us down to the level of the debate which the Prime Minister wanted. We don’t want such a debate to take place. We want the people to know that no Prime Minister has ever used such a language against a former Prime Minister,” Chidambaram added.
In a strongly worded attack on the government’s demonetisation exercise in the Rajya Sabha during the winter session in November last year, Singh said that several deaths and distress among the poor, farmers and small traders convinced him the demonetisation plan led to “organised loot and legalised plunder”.
On Wednesday, in an apparent reference to these comments, PM Modi said, “We have the ability to pay back in the same coin,” Modi said. “If anyone speaks like this, he should also be ready to face the consequences.”
But Sibal defended the use of words “plunder and loot” by Singh, saying those were not personal remarks against Modi but about the demonetisation policy. “We have never seen such arrogance. There is a dignity of the chair he occupies. The PM gives speeches in Parliament as if he speaks in a locality or in a ground. He doesn’t know what to say and what not in Parliament. The PM thinks that only he is clean and the rest all of us are black marketers,” he said.
From the government benches, information and broadcasting minister Venkaiah Naidu supported PM Modi and said that the Congress had earlier described Modi as Hitler as well as Mussolini.
However, Congress’ deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma refuted these charges. “Never ever have we called the Prime Minister names even if he functions in a dictatorial manner. The fact is that he is behaving in an extremely insulting and arrogant manner towards the entire opposition. He has also insulted the memory of India’s martyred Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and used unacceptable language against the former Prime Minister. We cautioned him initially not to drag the debate to such a low level,” he said.
Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala tweeted: “PM is not a person but an institution it has a decorum, propriety, morality and discipline in language. Sadly, Modi ji forgets he is PM of India!”