Privilege or not
What was supposed to be a celebration of democratic discourse in all its diversity was overtaken by the interpretation of two gestures before ‘the hug’. Angry BJP MPs, including Nishikant Dubey, rushed to move a privilege motion against the Congress chief for having gestured to the PM to get up from his seat to facilitate the ‘gale milan’. Amit Shah, however, restrained them from making any such move. His instruction was stern and simple: “aise mat karo’’ (do no such thing). Later, BJP MP Prahald Joshi gave a privilege notice against Rahul Gandhi for a different reason: making ‘unsubstantiated’ allegations against the PM vis-a-vis the 7.87 billion Euro Rafale fighter jet deal.
Rating the hug
As for the optics of the hug, Congress’s friends and allies responded with enthusiasm. The NCP supremo’s daughter, Supriya Sule, put up a spirited fight with Dubey and Anupriya Patel (NDA minister from Apna Dal) in Rahul’s defence, to the extent of telling Anupriya it’s ‘time to switch camps’. RJD chief Lalu’s daughter, Rajya Sabha MP Misa Bharati, thumped the desk vigorously as she watched Rahul’s speech on the Central Hall TV. Mother Sonia Gandhi, however, was not entirely approving. Appreciating his speech, she added, “but am not sure if he broke parliamentary protocol”.
No confidence and AP
The PM and the Congress chief may have caught the eyeballs and the attention of the talking heads. But the much-diminished Andhra unit of the Congress was none too happy. JD Saleem, for instance, lamented how the Congress missed being initiator of the no-confidence debate. Mallikarjun Kharge’s notice reached the Speaker’s office 10 minutes later than the TDP’s, which got accepted. The Congress ended up being a TDP ‘co-sponsor’, and thus missed earning brownie points back in AP. They also found a design behind Modi’s denial of granting special status to Andhra. It would have softened the anger against the Congress for bifurcating the state.
Ruffle over Rafale
The BJP moved rather fast to disprove Rahul Gandhi’s Rafale charge, by not only pulling out the secrecy clause signed in 2008 during AK Antony’s tenure, but lining up a denial from the French Government. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman already seemed to have had an inkling of what’s coming her way and was ready with a counter. India envoy in Paris Vinay Kwatra chipped in with his bit with great speed. Known to be close to Modi, he has worked in his PMO as joint secretary and interpreter. Not that the French needed much persuasion. Worried as they are about the deal going cold if the GOP has another shot at power.
In the absence of Jaitley
For the first time, the BJP/NDA tackled a major day in Parliament without Arun Jaitley. Amit Shah anchored the entire trust vote episode from start to finish, with a team of trusted lieutenants in Bhupendra Yadav and Piyush Goyal in attendance. Goyal’s been keeping Jaitley’s seat in the Fin Min warm. Operating mostly from Rail Bhawan, Goyal is seen in the North Block either late in the evening or when he has to meet anyone, CMs or delegations, in his capacity as ‘acting’ FM. It’s another matter that the Fin Min bureaucracy is a harrowed lot shuttling between Rail Bhawan, North Block and, of course, PMO. Not to mention the suggestions coming through video conferences. The monsoon session thus is coming as a respite for them.