New Delhi: With a fiery 31-minute animated taunt at the government, mixed with sarcasm and humour, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, long ridiculed for his drab speeches, on Wednesday appeared to have made a much desired shift in his oratory skills.
There was often deft silence, repeatedly disturbed by loud jeer from the treasury benches, when the 45-year-old Gandhi scion tore into the government over various issues in the high ceilinged precincts of the Lok Sabha.
He poked a finger and perhaps touched a raw nerve when he sarcastically referred to RSS ideologue Veer Savarkar and slammed the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for following him. The BJP members heckled back, objecting to his remarks.
“I said (Mahatma) Gandhi is ours, Veer Savarkar is yours. Am I wrong? Have you thrown Savarkar away? Good for you,” Gandhi said, with a grin, as he intermittently looked at a paper on which he apparently had written his talking points.
He wore a clean-shaven look, a white kurta pyjama, appeared calm, made frequent eye contact with MPs, moved his hands freely with strong gestures. Congress MPs cued him on various issues that the party needed him to speak on. But he remained undistracted.
He apparently didn’t bother about details and fumbled many a time, giving his detractors a reason to boo at him. But he took the criticism in his stride without getting overwhelmed.
“I am not from RSS, I commit mistakes,” said Gandhi, often derided for his alleged lack of knowledge and not so good oratory skills.
Even some BJP members, including Minister of State for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, could not help but smile back at him while Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha clapped at least once.
Gandhi rode roughshod over the ruling party for its criticism of the previous Congress government.
“Modiji said I have not seen a scheme as bad as MGNREGA. But (Finance Minister) Arun Jaitley came to me and said that it’s a very good scheme. I told him, why don’t you say this to your boss? When money was allotted to MGNREGA, I closed my eyes and thought it was (P) Chidambaram, (the former finance minister during the Congress government), presenting the budget.”
His colleagues burst into laughter amid bouts of protests from the other side of the house. He lashed out at the government’s measures as an “assault on democracy”.
“Modiji is a very powerful man. Everybody feels a bit scared of him. But we should ask him questions. You should also ask,” he told BJP MPs.