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No-confidence motion: The Rahul-Modi hug reverberates across internet

As visuals of the Congress president walking across the House to hug Modi were played repeatedly across television channels and social media platforms, some recalled the prime minister’s own penchant for hugging foreign leaders.

india Updated: Jul 21, 2018 00:06 IST
Vidhi Choudhary
Vidhi Choudhary
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Narendra Modi,Rahul Gandhi,No confidence motion
Congress President Rahul Gandhi hugs Prime Minister Narendra Modi after his speech in the Lok Sabha on 'no-confidence motion' during the Monsoon Session of Parliament, in New Delhi on Friday, July 20, 2018. (PTI)

Congress president Rahul Gandhi surprised Prime Minister Narendra Modi with a hug on Friday at the end of his hour-long speech during the Lok Sabha debate on the no-confidence motion against the government. The video of the moment went viral.

Tweets, likes, shares, comments, Instas and memes came surging forth alongside a torrent of Gandhi-inspired commentary, both delighted and outraged.

On Twitter, #RahulHugsModi was the top trend with over 44,200 tweets, Rahul Gandhi was trending with mentions in over 150,000 tweets, #BhookampAaGaya was trending with 41,700 tweets and #RahulKiJhappi in over 5,918 tweets. Other popular hashtags included #Hugplomacy and #HugNotHate.

Memes followed. Many remembered Munnabhai, the popular Bollywood film character who hugged his opponents in a bid to win them over and prove the relevance of Gandhian values.

As visuals of the Congress president walking across the House to hug Modi were played repeatedly across television channels and social media platforms, some recalled the prime minister’s own penchant for hugging foreign leaders.

It was a made for media moment. And perhaps the first such orchestrated by Gandhi.

On social media, some called Gandhi’s behaviour unparliamentary while others said he walked the talk with love.

In a tweet, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s official Twitter handle thanked Gandhi for his “entertainment” while Congress spokersperson Sanjay Jha tweeted, “More surprises in store. 2019 battle is on. #RahulHugsModi #BhookampAaGaya.”

The thing about ‘virality,’ experts say, is that it cannot be fully predicted or manufactured. It’s more art than science, and there is no recipe.

Experts also remained divided on this almost cinematic moment in politics orchestrated by Gandhi.

Sociologist Shiv Vishwanathan said the hug is not historical but a return to history.

“Earlier opposition parties and ruling/dominant groups always managed to transcend rivalry at certain crucial moments. For instance, Atal Bihari Vajpayee would be absolutely courteous to Sonia Gandhi. Today, Rahul Gandhi captured that history.”

“It tells you that there is a lot of history that Modi needs to understand. Hospitality and friendship is as much a part of history as rivalry and back-stabbing,” he added.

It was a made for media moment. And perhaps the first such orchestrated by Gandhi. (PTI)

Ram Subramanian, a writer and director for Voice of Ram, said the hug was funny at first, adding that it does invade an individual’s personal space.

“At first the video is very funny. The hug is a very defensive and submissive gesture on Mr Gandhi’s part. It’s a moment where it stops being about policy and he says – you don’t like me so I will hug you. I will go, hug my tormentor,”

Subramanian, an advertising professional who has worked in agencies such as Ogilvy, Contract and Trikaya Grey (now Grey India), started the initiative called Voice of Ram in 2014, a banner under which he creates campaigns on social issues.

“But its also a huge intrusion of private space by a political leader in the public eye. It sends a wrong message to hug someone without their consent. This is how culture is set. It was gracious of the prime minister to give a handshake in return,” he added.

First Published: Jul 21, 2018 00:06 IST