By Sushil Kutty
Wolf Aaya, Wolf Aaya… But Congress President Rahul Gandhi had also promised a ‘Bhookamp’ if allowed 15-minute one-on-one with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Friday, he went on the rampage, shaking the foundations of the Modi government in a speech that rocked Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to her feet, with Rahul telling her to her face that she was a ‘liar!’ And that no less than President Macron of France had told him that. Then, roping Prime Minister Narendra Modi into the Rafale deal, Rahul Gandhi challenged him to “look me in the eye”; going on to declare, “He can’t, he cannot look me in the eye!”’
High drama and it was past noon. The stage: Lok Sabha, a One-Act Play, part of the No-Confidence Motion against the Modi Government. “This wolf comes as a wolf” was the conclusion drawn in many a mind and either of the two individuals (Rahul and Modi) could qualify for the ‘wolf’ sobriquet. At his histrionic best, with twitter on a blast strumming the guitar in and against his favour, Rahul Gandhi blasted the treasury with Jumla Strike No.1, 2, 3 and 4…
“This government is all Jumla strikes,” he said, “Jumla which leave people in anxiety and the symptoms are excitement and happiness to begin with but which at a later stage are overtaken by feelings of shock and 8-hour long speeches on foreign shores.”
The Congress president, with the fresh shave of the morning still lighting up his face, concluded with “I’m Congress” but not before walking across and stunning Narendra Modi with a bent hug and an arm around. Modi called him back and said something in Rahul’s ear and what Rahul heard must come out at some time, unless the two sign a confidentially clause.
Like the one France and India signed on the Rafale deal, and on which “Nirmala Sitharaman lied.” Did she? No! Allowed to defend herself, the Defence Minister produced documents signed by predecessor AK Antony that there was indeed a secret pact between France and India on the Rafale deal and Rahul Gandhi was talking through his hat. Of course, Rahul heard the “evidence” but kept mum, the adrenaline rush gone, and the aftershock leaving him drained.
All in all, an explosive start to the no-confidence motion after a TDP MP and a BJP MP set the ball rolling with two comatose speeches which did nothing to rock the House. What was expected was Sonia Gandhi’s Mathematics and Narendra Modi’s Logic. Both subjects infallible. The UPA chairperson had said, “Who says we don’t have the numbers?”
The considered view was she’ll have to go into an abandoned rabbit hole to pull out the magic number: 273! In the unlikely scenario that she pulled off the numbers, it would be a Rahul Gandhi Sorcar. Magic! Like the one put on display by the late PC Sorcar!
And, if that happened, did Uganda have a Plan ‘B’? Prime Minister Narendra Modi was scheduled to fly off on an African tour on Monday. Unseated by lopsided Mathematics, would he still be on India’s version of ‘Air Force One’? Modi’s love for ‘overseas diplomacy’ is such that it has left de jure External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj confined to the Twitter plane!
That said, Friday Fever gripped all of India. Opposition parties whipped up no-confidence. The ruling dispensation went through the motion with the whip. Mamma and papa ordered children to remain in the House. There could be ‘Ladoo’ in the evening. And everybody knew ‘ladoo’ can be sweet or nothing!
The last time Sonia Gandhi did a no-confidence number in the Lok Sabha, 22 years ago, she cut short the verse of poet-Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, putting an end to his short stanza. But proving his name right, Atal returned to pen another poem, and this one he finished with his trademark flourish.
The question on Friday was: Could Sonia’s ‘Mathematics’ triumph? Logic said Modi had the numbers. Sonia’s 48 up against his 273. Add to that other NDA numbers and it would even be two-thirds majority. Calls to allies were made. Shotgun Sinha was whipped into submission. Kirti Azad was told his freedom stood curtailed. Those sick in bed were told to take their pills or else they would be in the ICU, and the Modi Government in the mortuary!
But that was only stretching the imagination, a Jumla! Friday, there were whispers that the Bharatiya ‘Jumla’ Party was in for a drubbing. The best of Congress speakers were in the Rajya Sabha, but there was a sampling in the lower house, who could stand up to the treasury word for word, Jumla for Jumla!
Sonia Gandhi, with her quaint foreign accent; Rahul Gandhi, with his intensity of narration; Jyotiraditya Scindia, with his royal emphasis; Malikarjun Kharge, armed with his unique baritone. Above all, the peerless Shashi Tharoor, with his flawless farrago of indescribably incredible lexicon! Besides, who could say, who others the hour would throw up?
Everybody knew looking back on Friday would be rewarding. In more ways than one. It would be launch day for Election 2019 for both NDA and UPA/Grand Alliance. Rahul Gandhi said as much as he finished his speech with “Modi is staring at defeat in 2019.”
The talk went like this: “If Modi loses, the grand alliance will come alive with a combination and permutation not expected before. If Sonia’s Mathematics goes wrong, NDA will sprint through with a snap poll in the shortest possible time.”
Speculation aside, the no-confidence motion went way off the script it was called for to take: Special Status for Andhra Pradesh. As it turned out the debate on the no-trust vote drowned Andhra Pradesh in the Bay of Bengal, much to the delight of TRS MPs. At the end of the day, nobody knew who won and who lost because the ‘Jumla strikes’ came from both sides, raised excitement which receded as the evening progressed, till the Prime Minister spoke. Bhookamp Aaya. Bhookhamp Aaya! (IPA Service)