NEW DELHI --Raking up everything from farmer woes to black money, the Naga accord to dealing with Pakistan, as well as the Jawharlal Nehru University row and the suicide of Rohith Vemula, Congress Party Vice President Rahul Gandhi today launched a full blown attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
But the highlight of his speech in Lok Sabha was the litany of jibes which the Congress Party leader unleashed, carefully treading the line between biting and offensive. Gandhi got laughs from his party's lawmakers and and boos from their counterparts in the Bharatiya Janata Party, but he was allowed to finish without any major protests or interruptions.
And he didn't fall back on his stale jibes like "suit-boot ki sarkar."
"The country is not the PM, the PM is not the country," he said.
While speaking Gandhi made a few slip-ups like using rupees instead of dollars when talking about the fall in oil prices
from $130 to $35 per barrel, but instead of getting red faced and embarrassed by his goofs, he readily acknowledged them. By doing this, the Congress Party leader tried to pitch his party as more easygoing when it came to criticism, while casting the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh as arrogant know-it-alls.
"I'm not from RSS, I make mistakes. I don't know everything," he said.
Gandhi spoke on Wednesday evening following a chaotic day in both Houses of Parliament, with lawmakers raising the recent controversy involving Congress Party leader and former Homer Minister P. Chidambaram's handling of the Ishrat Jahan case, and allegations of money laundering against his son Karti Chidambaram.
Gandhi told the Lok Sabha that after Finance Minister Arun Jaitley presented the Budget on Monday, the BJP leader told him that "there was no better scheme" than the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Gurantee Scheme (MNREGA) - a position contrary to that of Modi, who has vowed to continue it only as a "proof of failure" of the Congress Party-led United Progressive Alliance government.
This year, Jaitley increased the scheme’s allocation from Rs 34,000 crore to Rs 34,699 crore.
Taking a dig at both BJP leaders, Gandhi said that he asked Jaitley why he doesn't share his feelings about MNREGA with Modi.
"I asked him why he doesn't tell that to his boss? He was quiet after that," he said. "Modi Ji is a very powerful man. Everyone is a bit scared of him. But you should try to question him sometimes. Is there anyone whose opinion that the Prime Minister listens to."
For the most part, BJP leaders allowed Gandhi to make his speech, jibes and all, but objections were raised when he described the lawmakers on his side as Gandhians and adherers of non-violence, and on the BJP side as violent followers of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar.
"On one side Gandhi and on the other side Savarkar," he said.
Among the several issues which he raised today, Gandhi said that Modi's "Fair and Lovely Yojana’ to "convert black money into white money” had failed. “Nobody who has black money will be jailed under Modi’s ‘Fair and Lovely’ scheme. All those who have black money can make it white under this scheme," he said.
Gandhi asked why Modi had not spoken abour Rohith Vemula, the Dalit student whose suicide at the University of Hyderabad has unleashed protests and a political storm over the past two months, and he also questioned why the Prime Minister had not phoned his mother.
On the JNU Row, Gandhi said that Kanhaiya Kumar, the PhD candidate from Bihar, who was arrested on the charge of sedition, had not said anything "anti national" in his speech.
With his one visit to drink a cup of tea with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, last year, Gandhi said that Modi had undone six years of work by the Indian government of turning Pakistan into a pariah after the 2008 Mumbai attack.
"In one move he let Pakistan out of the little cage we had put it in," he said.