With a fiery 31-minute animated taunt at the government, mixed with sarcasm and humour, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, long ridiculed for his drab speeches, on Wednesday appeared to have made a much desired shift in his oratory skills.
There was often deft silence, repeatedly disturbed by loud jeer from the treasury benches, when the 45-year-old Gandhi scion tore into the government over various issues in the high ceilinged precincts of the Lok Sabha.
Rahul wore a clean-shaven look, a white kurta pyjama, appeared calm, made frequent eye contact with MPs, moved his hands freely with strong gestures.
From accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of going soft on hoarders of black money and making repeated U-turns on his Pakistan policy to taking pot-shots at the RSS, here is what Rahul Gandhi said in Parliament:
# The Prime Minister cannot run the country with his opinion alone. The country is not PM and PM is not the country.
# Nobody who has black money will be jailed under Modi’s Fair and Lovely scheme. All those who have black money can make it white under this scheme.
# I said (Mahatma) Gandhi is ours, Veer Savarkar is yours. Am I wrong? Have you thrown Savarkar away? Good for you.”
# I am not from RSS, I commit mistakes.”
# You cannot defend the Indian flag by destroying the relationships between Indians.”
# In one move, he (Narendra Modi) personally let Pakistan out of the little cage into which we had put them... When he stopped over in Pakistan without talking to the professionals in our government, the Prime Minister disrespected our flag.”
# Modiji said I have not seen a scheme as bad as MGNREGA. But (Finance Minister) Arun Jaitley came to me and said that it’s a very good scheme. I told him, why don’t you say this to your boss? When money was allotted to MGNREGA, I closed my eyes and thought it was (P) Chidambaram, (the former finance minister during the Congress government), presenting the budget.”
# Modiji is a very powerful man. Everybody feels a bit scared of him. But we should ask him questions. You should also ask.”
# Nobody had an idea what Modi had signed. Where is Naga accord now? It’s gone with the wind. Bye-bye accord.”
However, Rahul Gandhi also shared some light moments with the treasury benches.
Shortly after Rahul Gandhi completed his speech while participating in the motion of thanks on the President’s address, Bharatiya Janata Party’s Prahlad Joshi countered him on the issues he raised.
As Gandhi stood up and was about to leave the house, members from the treasury benches began shouting and asked him to listen to them.
Some members from the treasury benches commented he should have the patience to hear others too.
Gandhi returned near his seat, made some gesture by raising his fingers and then said, “Toilet tau jaane do! (Let me go to the toilet).”
The entire house burst out into laughter. Gandhi returned after a few minutes and took his seat.
At one moment during his speech, a member from the treasury benches remarked that Gandhi is reading from the papers given by the AICC (All India Congress Committee) and has no idea when to say ‘sir’ or ‘madam’.
He retorted: “I will give you the Hindi translation...don’t worry.”
(With inputs from agencies)