Column | Modi's fury in Parliament akin to Trump's play book of tirades

Column | Modi's fury in Parliament akin to Trump's play book of tirades
(From left) Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi. File photo

A year after he completed his eight-year tenure as US President, Barack Obama was surprised at the frustration, fury and anger in his successor Donald Trump, who was attacking not only his Democratic rival Hilary Clinton but also members of Trump's cabinet.

Obama observed he and his team were happy when they got power, but power had made Trump even more grumpy.

Obama had implied joy and confidence was missing. Some of those who listened to Narendra Modi last week in Parliament for two successive days the frustration and fury of the prime minister against the opposition, especially the Congress party, were reminded of Obama's prescient observation.

Modi was like a giant bear itching all over as he lashed at the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and its multiple failures.

He was so incensed by the earlier speech of Rahul Gandhi and other Congress leaders in Lok Sabha that even in Rajya Sabha, his obsession with the party that had directly ruled the country for 55 years and supported minority government's for three years, won accolades from hardcore supporters of Modi.

But the Congress was thrilled by the lashing to claim this proved it is still seen as the national political alternative, at a time when continuous desertions and internal strife is raging within on Rahul's leadership.

But these political pyrotechnics have always been part of Modi's quiver when elections are on, and he has used Parliament since 2014 to drive home his message to the voters as the model code of conduct cannot be enforced for speeches made in the House. The speech is also widely telcast on state-run neworks like Doordarshan, Sansad tv and All India Radio.

But a senior advisor of Rahul revealed the Congress leader, who is a lightning rod to Modi, wanted to speak on the Budget, but opposition leader in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge felt Rahul should speak on the president's address to Parliament, which was being discussed earlier than budget discussion and thereby cover non-economic issues also.

The bait suited Rahul, but the bite in response served Modi to ratchet the up the political temperature as campaigning for five assemblies was in full swing, especially as Modi had multiple grievances against Rahul and the Congress.

While the BJP had been countering Congress with force on the Hindutva issues, it is the government that had been defensive on administrative issues like delay in launching the vaccine drive and the massive migrant crisis in 2020, when millions took to the highways as big cities were abruptly closed due to COVID lockdown.

Congress has also been needling Modi directly on his handling of the border dispute with China and reports of Chinese constructions in Indian territory.

The Prime Minister has also maintained silence most of the time on the claims of Chinese trespass. These two issues resonate in the assembly elections as UP received a large number of migrants, while national security is a major issue in UP, Punjab Uttarakhand and Manipur.

When the Congress decided not to disrupt the budget session even on contentious subjects like spying on citizens using Pegasus spyware despite new revelations also meant that BJP did not have its biggest and most effective weapon to take on the opposition.

As leaders like Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma and Kapil Sibal have raised serious questions on the Gandhi family taking all decisions without constituting the Parliamentary Board, Modi now insists that his opposition is not to the existence of Congress party, a significant departure from the demand for Congress Mukht Bharat.

Instead, he was more trenchant in his attack on dynastic politics as Congress and most regional parties are family-run.

He also took on prime ministers Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi as well as Sonia Gandhi, who controlled the Manmohan Singh government for a decade.

Modi said Congress was a 'tukde tukde gang' aiming to destroy the Union and insulting the patriotism of people of states like Tamil Nadu.

He tried to turn the narrative on the migrant crisis by claiming opposition governments in Maharashtra and Delhi had increased COVID spread by arranging buses and trains for migrant workers even when experts advised the labourers to stay where they were.

The BJP is irked at actor Sonu Sood, who arranged for transport of more than a lakh migrants through chartered buses and even flights, becoming an icon of hope and is campaigning aggressively for Congress in Punjab.

Modi's all-out attack on Congress also meant that he was overcoming the handicap of the Election Cmmission banning massive size rallies in the first phase of campaigning in UP.

Thus Parliament was the most effective forum. But Supriya Sule, daughter of NCP president Sharad Pawar, ripped apart the BJP MPs who were repeating Modi's attack. BJP youth wing president Tejaswi Surya had proudly claimed to be a dynasst in Lok Sabha. Sule asked whether Surya got the BJPP ticket in Bangalore South because his uncle Ravi Subramanya is a BJP MLA in Karnataka.

Then she reeled off names of prominent dynasts including sons of Rajnath Singh, B S Yedyurappa as well as new entrants from Congress into the BJP including Jyotiraditya Scindia and R P N Singh.

If Trump's tactic was to keep attacking his predecessor as well rivals whom he had defeated by calling out offensive nicknames, the current US President Joe Biden is on the other extreme. Biden refuses to name Trump at all. But that strategy would not suit Modi as he is constantly in election mode.

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