Rahul hugs unwilling Modi, winks; Speaker annoyed (Third Lead)

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New Delhi, July 20 (IANS) Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Friday surprised the Lok Sabha when after bitterly criticising the BJP-led government during the no-confidence motion, he walked across to the treasury benches and hugged Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

While the Congress MPs thumped their desks in appreciation of Gandhi’s gesture as he walked back to his seat, a visibly displeased Speaker Sumitra Mahajan underlined that the code of conduct inside the House did not approve of such behaviour, especially Gandhi’s winking at a fellow MP after the hug.

“I have not an iota of hatred or hard feelings against you. You hate me. You may call me Pappu, you can use a stream of expletives for me. But I don’t hate you or have even slightest of anger for you. I am the Congress,” Gandhi said at the end of his nearly 40-minute fiery speech.

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Accusing Modi of lying to the nation and making empty rhetoric “jumlas” to deceive the poor of the country, he also lashed out at the government and questioned Modi’s silence over women not feeling safe in the country and people from the minority communities being lynched.

Resuming his speech after a brief adjournment, Gandhi said opposition members and even some MPs from the treasury side congratulated him for speaking “really well”.

He then walked across to the ruling benches and hugged Modi who was taken by surprise. The Congress leader was heard telling the Prime Minister to get up and allow him to do “pranaam” to him.

Modi was taken aback as the Congress President bent over, threw his arms around him and hugged him.

After recovering from an apparent shock moment, the Prime Minister called Gandhi back towards him and the two shook hands. He patted Gandhi on his back and exchanged a word or two with him, smilingly.

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Akali Dal member Harsimrat Kaur Badal questioned Gandhi for saying she was smiling at him when he was speaking. “This is Parliament and not a ‘pappi jhappi’ area of Munna Bhai,” she said, mocking him.

As the Speaker said that she was smiling when Gandhi was speaking, there was a burst of laughter in the House.

By this time Gandhi had returned to his seat amid a loud cheer from his Congress colleagues. He was seen winking at fellow party MP Jyotiraditya Scindia, who was sitting next to Gandhi.

As the opposition members gave Gandhi a standing ovation and thumped their desks, Mahajan said the rules of the House did not encourage such a conduct inside the House.

A few hours later, Mahajan again expressed her disapproval at Gandhi’s conduct.

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“You (Congress members) might have liked it but I did not. And especially the way he (Rahul Gandhi) winked after hugging the Prime Minister,” Mahajan said, adding: “It is upto us to maintain the decorum of this House.”

She said that Gandhi was like her son but she also deemed it her duty as a mother to polish his manners and etiquette.

In response, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said: “It seems the Speaker could not separate herself from the disturbed behaviour of the BJP members. If Rahul Gandhi’s behaviour was immature, then would she say that when Prime Minister Narendra Modi hugged heads of states of other nations, it was also an immature act? Isn’t that an expression of friendship?”

“Would she say that the Prime Minister is immature?” Surjewala asked.

–IANS

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