Narendra Modi triggered an ugly spat with Congress by caustically referring to his predecessor Manmohan Singh as someone adept at “batching with a raincoat on,” a dig at Singh’s alleged ability to avoid the taint of scams and controversies.
Replying to the motion on the President’s address in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, Modi took on Singh, who had slammed demonetization as “organized loot and legalized plunder,” and said, though the former PM had been an insider in major economic decision-making for more than three decades; he had mastered the art of deflecting adverse comment.
Several corruption cases happened during this period, but there was not a single stain on Singh, Modi said. “Bathroom me raincoat pehen kar nahana… Yeh kala to doctor sahib hi ante hain, aur koi nahin janta (taking a bath while wearing a raincoat… only doctor sahib knows this art, none else),” he said.
The Prime Minister’s remarks came a day after he lit into Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in Lok Sabha, saying the political earthquake promised by the Gandhi scion had finally arrived (referring to the quake with its epicenter in Rudraprayag).
An incensed Congress immediately staged a walkout and senior leaders Ahmed Patel, P Chidambaram, Anand Sharma and Kapil Sibal strongly criticized Modi for indecorous behavior and a petty mindset. “He is behaving in an arrogant and insulting manner against the opposition. He has dragged the debate to the lowest level,” Sharma said.
In the House, Modi went on to say that politicians should learn the art of remaining Teflon clean from the former PM. The entire Congress bench erupted in protests and disrupted House proceedings for a few minutes.
This was Modi’s second attack on Manmohan Singh during his speech. A few minutes earlier, he referred to the Congress booklet on the ‘Real State of Economy’ for which Singh wrote a foreword. “He had put his viewpoints in the past session… Now a book has been published by his party. I thought an economist of his stature would have contributed to the book. But I found he had only written the foreword,” Modi said.
The PM said the principal opposition party had understood everything that he had not even spoken, clearly hitting back at Singh’s attack on demonetization as “monumental mismanagement” and “systemic failure”.
Modi did not relent on Congress even after its MPs left the House. Recalling how Singh had termed demonetization as “loot and plunder”, the PM said, “They should have thought 50 times that if they cross the limit, they should have the ability to listen to others. We have the ability to pay back in the same coin.”