Raucous disruptions have returned to Parliament once again, this time following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s jibes at his predecessor Manmohan Singh.
The Rajya Sabha, where the political drama happened on Wednesday, was adjourned temporarily, signalling a deepening chill between the Congress and the government. The principle opposition party has demanded that the PM apologise to Singh for saying “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.
Top Congress leaders huddled on Thursday morning and decided to stall proceedings in Rajya Sabha and stage protests in the lower House.
It’s not clear if the protests would lead to a washout of the rest of the session in the Rajya Sabha, but the disruptions are likely to disrupt a large part of the budget session.
Sources in the Congress say the latest episode might cast a shadow on the fate of the goods and services tax bill.
“When our leader is under attack, how can they expect our support for bills, especially on economic issues like the GST?” said a Congress leader.
For the Congress, Singh remains the most important powerhouse for taking on the BJP government over economic issues, among other things. He enjoys an aura and respect from the party’s rank and file. Even as the UPA 2 administration was marred in corruption charges, the Congress leadership -- especially party president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul -- stood like a rock beside Singh.
The party has reached out to other Opposition outfits to garner a united onslaught against the BJP over the PM’s remarks.
“On one hand, Modi seeks cooperation from all parties to run the House and push bills. On the other hand, he attacks Manmohan Singh who is an epitome of cooperation. Singh had always believed in consensus politics. So, he (Narendra Modi) actually doesn’t want cooperation,” said Md Selim, politburo member of the CPI(M).
During his intervention in the debate on President’s speech, PM spoke about how Singh had been involved in the economic policy-making of India for almost 35 years.
“There have been so many scams. But he has maintained an unblemished image. People should learn from Dr. Singh the art of bathing in bathroom wearing a rain coat,” Modi quipped.
He recalled how Singh had said “organised plunder and loot” to describe demonetisation and added, “If someone used such words, then he should also be ready to hear the reply.”