As he hugged Narendra Modi in Lok Sabha today, Congress Party president Rahul Gandhi declared that he had no anger in his heart for the Prime Minister. "You call me pappu, you hurl other abuses at me, but there is no anger inside me for you," he said.
Even as Gandhi injected his speech with levity, the Congress leader jibed at Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) over the wave of Hindu nationalism and intolerance that is pervading the country.
And while his performance brought smiles, cheers and jeers, even from the Prime Minister, Gandhi unmistakably took the opportunity to reinforce his own Hindu credentials.
Referencing Modi, the BJP and the RSS in the context of rising intolerance, Gandhi said, "You taught me the meaning of being a Shiv ji bhakt. You taught me the meaning of being Hindu...You have taught me the meaning of Congress and Hindustan. You have taught me that no matter what anyone says or hits you, you don't attack them."
Earlier in his speech, Gandhi said, "For the first time in the history of India, women are not being protected. Wherever you see, Dalit, Adivasis, minorities are being thrashed, killed, but the Prime Minister does not speak a word. Are these minorities, Adivasis, women, not a part of India?"
Referencing Union Minister Jayant Sinha who recently met with lynching convicts in Jharkhand, Gandhi said, "Instead, their ministers garland the convicts. An Indian getting beaten in every corner, but the PM is quiet."
A war of words erupted in Lok Sabha today after the no-confidence motion against the Modi government kicked off in the lower house of Parliament shortly after 11:00 am. While the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance has the numbers to beat the motion, the government and Opposition are using the trust-vote as a curtain raiser for the 2019 general election.
Accusing Modi of unfulfilled promises, Gandhi said, "I want to tell you that you are the victim of a 21st century political weapon. The political weapon is the jumla strike. First, there is a great sense of excitement and happiness. Then, there is a sense of shock..." he said.
Gandhi raised a host of issues including unemployment and intolerance, calling out the Prime Minister for failing to provide the two crore jobs that he had promised while campaigning for the 2014 general election. "This is the hollowness of his words... sometimes they say make 'pakodas'... open a shop... who will bring jobs?" he said.
Gandhi also accused Modi of altering the Rafale fighter jet deal with the French government in favor of a "businessman" who had debts worth ₹35,000 crores, and who ended up benefitting to the tune of ₹45,000 crores.
As BJP supporters rose to their feet in protest and Modi started smiling, the Congress leader said, "He (Modi) must explain why. He is smiling. There is a touch of nervousness in the gentleman. And now he cannot look into my eyes."
Gandhi said that BJP President Amit Shah and Modi were "different" types of politicians.
"Amit Shah and Narendra Modi are two very different types of politicians. The difference between all of us and the prime minister and the president of the BJP is that we are okay with losing power, we can see ourselves being in and out of power, but for reasons everyone knows, the president of the BJP and the prime minister cannot afford to lose power. If they lose power, other processes will start against them...," the Congress leader said.
"The president of the BJP and the prime minister act out of fear," he said.
Gandhi told Lok Sabha that BJP members had congratulated him for his speech during the break. He winked after giving Modi a hug.