The BJP leadership has decided that they need to respond to Rahul Gandhi’s jibes against the government, particularly those directed at Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It didn’t matter that the Congress Vice President was on Thursday touring parts of Vidarbha and wasn’t in Parliament, and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley chose the debate on Finance Bill in the Lok Sabha to hit out at Gandhi.
There was a feeling among a section of BJP leaders that Rahul was given a free run when he made his now famous “suit-boot ki Sarkar…corporate ki sarkar” remark against Modi on the very first day of the second half of budget session. Though Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh’s response was extensive and filled with facts, it wasn’t seen as a ‘political response’ to a sweeping charge.
Rahul’s new found aggression after his return from foreign shores after a 56-day leave of absence, and the kind of coverage he has received, has made BJP leaders realise the hard way that they couldn’t afford to ignore him or treat him with kid gloves. The BJP has been upping the ante against the Congress Vice President, but with little effect.
When it came to Gandhi’s speech on net neutrality, Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad reacted strongly with facts but didn’t take him on personally. When Rahul took another potshot at Modi saying, “Abhi hum sab ke PM desh ka daura laga hai…”, two union ministers, both from alliance partners, Harsimrat Kaur and Ramvilas Paswan came down heavily on him. But Rahul still managed to hog the headlines.
Interestingly, the BJP, for some reason, is also making a distinction between what is to be spoken on floor of the House and what is to be spoken at official briefings at the party headquarters. About an hour before Jaitley began speaking in Lok Sabha, BJP president Amit Shah refused to comment on Gandhi, “Let Harshimrat Kaur (the Union Minister from Akali Dal) leader respond to him.”
On Thursday, it seemed that Jaitley had come prepared to respond to Gandhi’s charges with sarcasm, and to go into the details of every single charge hat the Congress leader had made so far. Since Rahul was not present, and hadn’t spoken on the subject, Jaitley used a statement by Congress legislator KV Thomas made earlier during the debate to target the Congress Vice President.
“Yeh sujh-bujh ki sarkar hai, isme koi galat fahmi nahi rahe (this is a government of solutions, there should be no misconception about this). Yesterday there was criticism (by Rahul) against the Prime Minister that he spends time abroad. At least we know where he is. Is India taller in the community of nations today than it was a few years ago or not? I was surprised when I read over the last few days that compared to the developed world, whether it was Iraq or it was Yemen or Nepal today, it is India which is now being considered as a global leader even in areas where we could not manage our own affairs earlier – disaster management,” the Finance Minister said.
“The Congress Party would realize when the Prime Minister of India goes abroad even for two days or three days, he performs a national duty. There is a difference between performing a national duty and disappearing for a jaunt. Therefore, you must realize the difference between the two”, Jaitley said in a clear taunt to Rahul’s almost two-month-long sabbatical to undisclosed locations.
The Finance Minister added,“It may be of some interest to my friends in the Congress Party that amongst the various indirect concessions that I have given, some are meant for manufacturers of footwear in India, those who make boots, those he make slippers. Today we are becoming a great manufacturing hub, at manufacturing low cost footwear. Therefore, hopefully with these concessions the whole of this country can get footwear rather than only some people wearing footwear.”
He followed it up with a jab at Rahul’s taunt about a ‘suited booted sarkar’ saying,“Booted hona better hai. Booted out hona khatarnak hai (It is better to be booted. Getting booted out is very dangerous)”.
Jaitley also said that the Congress Vice President was currently in a “rent a cause” phase and questioned his commitment to politics:
“What is the kind of commitment to politics that you suddenly disappear for months together and then you come back and say that I will pick up an issue every day merely because it will make my presence felt.” Jaitley said.
The Congress Vice President may take a grim view of the entire speech. While multiple sarcastic references were made against him in Parliament, there were not many who defended him.