Was it a mere coincidence? A year after Prime Minister Narendra Modi infuriated Congress leadership by throwing the ‘raincoat’ jibe against former PM Manmohan Singh, he again stung the Grand Old Party with his ‘Ramayana’ remarks against Renuka Chowdhury on Wednesday. On both occasions, Modi was replying to the motion of thanks to President’s address at the start of the Budget session of the Parliament and both times his remarks sparked protests from the Congress.
On 8 February 2017, Modi got the opportunity to speak in the presence of Singh, who had previously termed his demonetisation decision as “organised loot, legalised plunder” and “monumental mismanagement”. In a newspaper editorial titled “Making of a Mammoth Tragedy”, Singh had also said that demonetisation decision was a “travesty of his (Modi) fundamental duty”. However, Modi didn’t take any prisoners while taking potshots at his predecessor when he got the chance in Rajya Sabha.
Modi reminded the House that he was obliged to pay back to Singh in the same coin. “If anyone speaks like this (referring to Singh’s remarks against demonetisation), he should also be ready to face the consequences,” Modi said as BJP MPs thumped their desks in approval.
Modi wondered how Singh’s image remained clean even as several scams took place during the reign of the government led by him. “People should learn the art of bathing in the bathroom wearing a raincoat from Dr Singh,” Modi had said, sparking protests from the opposition benches. A visibly saddened Manmohan Singh was seen walking out of the House. He didn’t react to Modi’s remarks. But Congress continued to demand an apology from Modi on the floor of the House for several days. The apology never came.
Watch Renuka Chowdhury reacts to Narendra Modi’s speech in Rajya Sabha
— ANI (@ANI) February 7, 2018
A year later on Wednesday, something similar happened when Modi took a Ramayana jibe against Congress MP Renuka Chowdhury.
This time replying to the motion of thanks to President Ram Nath Kovind’s address to Rajya Sabha, Modi got a chance to take a jibe at Chowdhury when the latter broke into a loud laughter when he said that the concept of Aadhaar was first moved by the then Home Minister LK Advani in 1998. As soon as Modi questioned the Congress claims for Aadhaar credit, Chowdhury broke into a guffaw. Irritated Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu immediately disapproved her conduct. “If you have some problem, go to a doctor, please,” Naidu told her.
Modi, however, requested Naidu not to stop the Congress MP, saying: “Sabhapati ji meri aapse vinti hai Renuka ji ko kuch mat kahiye. Ramayan serial ke baad aisi hansi sunne ka saubhagya aaj jaake mila hai (I request you not to say anything to Renuka ji. After the Ramayan serial, we got the privilege of hearing this kind of laughter only today.)”
Watch Narendra Modi speech in Rajya Sabha
While the BJP MPs broke into laughter hearing Modi’s remarks, Congress erupted in protest once again – after a year. Chowdhury termed Modi’s remarks as “anti-women” but she was countered by Union minister Smriti Irani, who told reporters: “I was present there. I heard the kind of indecent remarks she was making on PM Modi. Is it justified that she makes indecent remarks and when those remarks are met sarcastically she makes her gender her shield?.”
On Thursday, Congress continued the protests against Modi’s remarks, seeking apology. It remains to be seen how long it would last.