Reports are also circulating that Rahul Gandhi told the Prime Minister that he was a “Gandhi, and not a Godse”.
Ever since the debate and vote on the no-confidence motion got over last week, the entire exercise has been subjected to intense scrutiny. Ever before the debate began, the result was obvious. What was keenly watched was how the process unfolded, who said what and by the end of the day did the NDA have any desertions and how strong was the index of Opposition unity? While the government had the numbers to conclusively defeat the motion, both sides scored major political points even as they had some embarrassing questions to answer. The reactions in the media, including the social media, have largely been on predictable lines.
The final outcome ultimately left both the ruling side and the Opposition alliance with their moments of discomfort. The BJP was unable to convince its oldest ally in the NDA, the Shiv Sena, to oppose the motion. In spite of having ministers as part of the government, the Shiv Sena chose to stay away and compare the results to the recently-concluded Fifa World Cup final — the BJP won the game (like France) while the Congress won the hearts (like Croatia). This comment must have been more painful for the BJP and its leadership, unlike the criticisms from its other opponents. It clearly sent a message that sustaining a coalition is a two-way street, built and carefully maintained over time.
The initial offensive launched by the Telugu Desam Party, which introduced the motion, was sharp and pointed, but the party lost much of the goodwill when it kept up a steady protest as the Prime Minister spoke. The debate itself saw some of the best talent across parties participating, which truly enhanced the quality of the debate. The spirited speech of the Congress president as well as the powerful defence by the Prime Minister were the clear highlights of the debate. Yet neither of them said anything that they had not spoken in the past, and that left many disappointed. The focus on both sides was intensely negative rather than offering something concretely positive. The debate had its fair share of “theatrics”, that grabbed the headlines. Much has and will be said and written about the surprising act of the Congress president of walking across the aisle and hugging the Prime Minister. Was it a spontaneous act on Rahul Gandhi’s part — many will surely harbour doubts, especially after that “wink” to a possible “co-conspirator”, which looked as if he was trying to say: “Look, I did it!” As one saw that happening, it was clear that there would be several reactions from those representing the government, including the PM himself. The home minister came up with his “Chipko” comment, that was enthusiastically acknowledged by his party MPs. The PM responded to the Congress president’s actions in his initial comments itself. It was a strong attack on Rahul Gandhi with the PM dubbing the Opposition leader’s move as a desperate move to grab his seat! One will never know the conversation that the two had in those brief moments.
Reports are also circulating that Rahul Gandhi told the Prime Minister that he was a “Gandhi, and not a Godse”. One thing is clear: the Prime Minister was clearly taken by surprise and was not sure how to react and in fact called Rahul Gandhi back after the “hug” to carry on the conversation. Given the importance of headline-grabbing, this episode clearly became the talk of the town and overshadowed many other aspects of the debate.
The contradictions inside the NDA and the cracks within the anti-BJP alliance were clearly visible, and this will be a matter of serious concern for both sides.
As one goes forward, can the BJP-led NDA hold together and add to its flock? The anti-BJP parties, on the other hand, should be all too familiar with the axiom of “united we stand, divided we fall”. The story of 2019 lies in the answer to these two critical questions.