Sonia Gandhi's "theatrics" jibe at external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on Friday evoked a sharp response from the government, with HRD minister Smriti Irani saying the Congress president can't even deliver a speech without reading from a paper.
"Sushmaji's speech is a challenge for the opposition to get proof against her. It's easy for Soniaji to give a byte, but it is not easy for her to give a speech without reading it out from a paper," Irani said, referring to Swaraj's address in Parliament where she said she extended no favours to former IPL chief Lalit Modi.
“His wife has been suffering from cancer for the last 17 years and it is the 10th time it has recurred... I want to ask what Sonia Gandhi would have done had she been in my place. Would she have left her to die?" Swaraj had said on Thursday.
A day after the foreign minister dared the Opposition to provide proof to counter her, Sonia rejected the minister's statement as "theatrics" and said: "She (Sushma Swaraj) is an expert at indulging in theatrical politics."
The Congress has been demanding the resignation of foreign minister Swaraj and Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje over the Lalit Modi controversy and that of Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan for the multi-crore Vyapam scandal. The monsoon session has tumultuous scenes in the wake of Opposition protests.
Hitting back, Irani said: "Do they want to say that Parliament is a stage? Calling an elected leader's speech theatrics is disrespecting the mandate of the people."
Similar views were expressed by Rajiv Pratap Rudy, the minister of state for skill development and entrepreneurship. He said: "Those who cannot come to Parliament, cannot speak in Parliament and will do this outside Parliament... For someone who can speak and debate in Parliament...this is the difference between Sushmaji and Sonia Gandhi."
Referring to the drubbing of the Congress received in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, communications and information technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the Congress should have learnt a lesson from the public mandate which was already against them.
"People have given such a huge mandate against them, but still if the Congress doesn't learn the lesson, then I am afraid to say that their future is dark," Prasad said.
The BJP also used the dynasty stick to hit back at Sonia's son and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who charged Swaraj with receiving money from Lalit Modi.
After Rahul sought to know how much money Swaraj's family received from Lalit Modi -- a reference to the fact that her lawyer husband and daughter had worked for the former IPL chief, HRD minister Irani said: "People in this country know that a woman coming from a normal family has to toil hard to make a space for herself in the society and its economy. It is generally seen that children of such women also work hard."
She added: "Congress may have an exception in the Gandhi family where they don't have to sweat it out in the sun to earn their livelihood. I completely reject their charges (against Swaraj)."
Irani also attacked the Congress for its criticism of the Naga peace accord, saying it was a historic step as far as the country's internal security was concerned.
(With agency inputs)