When Congress president Rahul Gandhi began walking towards the well of the House after his sharpest attack on the Centre in Parliament, members on the treasury benches looked on curiously. Rahul walked past the well and stopped only at the far end, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi was seated. There, he turned into the aisle, bent and spoke to Modi and both shook hands. MPs thought the gesture was a little unconventional but believed Rahul was done. He clearly was not. Rahul gestured to Modi to get up so they could hug, and the Prime Minister, visibly taken aback, stayed put in his seat.
The Hindu nationalist BJP calls Gandhi, the fourth-generation scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family, a “failed dynast” out of touch with ordinary people whose only political credential is the accident of his birth. After a speech accusing Modi of promoting crony capitalism, Gandhi addressed such criticism: “You have anger against me, you can call me names, you can abuse me, but I don’t have a speck of hatred against you. I will take out this hatred out of you and turn it into love,” he said before striding across the floor to put his arms awkwardly around the seated prime minister.
Startled by Gandhi’s gesture, Modi froze in his seat but later called Gandhi back to his seat and shook hands, smiling. Modi, whose BJP is setting up next year’s vote as a presidential-style contest between the experienced prime minister and an untested challenger, is himself known for his bear hugs, embracing leaders such as US President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif.
After a poor start in politics, losing a string of elections to Modi’s party, Gandhi is drawing crowds as he seeks to exploit Modi’s failure to deliver tens of thousands of jobs he promised India’s youth and a broader decline in law and order. In the meantime Congress Party leader Shashi Tharoor praised Gandhi’s “astonishing performance” in parliament. “It was a game-changing speech, tearing apart the Govt’s claims & ending with that unscripted hug that has literally taken the BJP’s breath away,” he tweeted.
Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill took a hit on Modi, “Mr Prime Minister, if you can accept hugs from (former) Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, why could you not show some grace to Rahul Gandhi against whom you hold perpetual grudges.” “The nation wants to know if the Prime Minister of this country is more affectionate and respectful towards Pakistan ex-Prime Minister than his own countrymen and the president of India’s oldest party,” he said.
AAP spokesperson Sanjay Singh
Aam Aadmi Party praised Rahul Gandhi’s speech and the hug Gandhi gave to Modi during the Lok Sabha debate.
“They are fine with the PM hugging his then Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif, US President Donald Trump and other heads of state. What is their problem with Gandhi?” AAP spokesperson Sanjay Singh asked.
Prime Minister Modi is the biggest liar in the country, religion teaches us that he should also get a hug. This is why Rahul Ji gave him a hug because we do not hate anyone, said Congress member and Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal.
Yashwant Sinha nudges Modi on Twitter
Former Finance Minister and BJP leader Yashwant Sinha tweeted out about Rahul Gandhi’s publicised sudden hug-gesture for Modi taking a jibe at the latter in a tweet saying, “The serial hugger has been taken for a hug.”