SEEMA MUSTAFA | 20 JULY, 2018
Rahul Gandhi embraces the PM then winks
An angry, fiery, passionate speech, a walk across the floor of the House, a hug with a tense recipient, a walk back amidst applause, and then the wink!
It was sheer drama. And left the politicians, the media and of course the highly vocal and emotive social media twittering about the hug and the wink.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi outdid himself while leading the opposition into the no confidence motion against the government in the Lok Sabha today.And while the speech was feisty, straight, direct and hard hitting against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it was the hug at the end, and the wink at the end that seem to have taken over.
Rahul Gandhi ended on a high note, then walked across the floor and took the Prime Minister by surprise when he leaned over and hugged him. A hug that almost had him resting his head on the PM’s chest. A tense PM looked over his shoulder, while a stunned Council of Minister watched in complete silence. PM Modi recovered to call him back, and sought to repeat the hug but without the flavour. The deed had been done, and perhaps to match the drama one could even say, the die had been cast!.
Rahul Gandhi walked back amidst big applause from the opposition benches, and took his seat. He then turned and looked at Jyotiraditya Scindia next to him, and winked. A broad all there wink. Almost as if he had won a dare with the hug. A visible laugh, a gesture that said ‘I did it’ mocking and yet appreciative.
And in this lies the answer to the hug. For the sceptics who came out the House arguing that he had acted like a schoolboy, and blunted the impact of his attack with the hug, The wink was a clear indication that the hug was literally a parody. These hugs have been made Modi famous, as he embraces reluctant and willing leaders across the world and today was caught off guard by the Congress President, a party and a family he and his leaders have been attacking ceaselessly.
The hug thus acquired a highly political hue. For one, it made it mocked at the PM as the wink after it clarified and certified;
Two, it drew out the contrast between the hate of the treasury benches and the “love” that the dignified and quiet Congress President seemed to exude even while attacking PM Modi on his policies and politics of hate. And actually assured the government and the BJP that he carried “nothing but love” in his heart for them.
Three, it highlighted the alternative politics that while at the receiving end of as he said, coercion, beatings, threat, the Congress would respond only with peace and love. But as the speech indicated would not dilute its opposition to the politics of the “BJP, RSS”.
Four, as he walked back after the hug Rahul Gandhi said that this for him what was being Indian and a Hindu all about. He stressed again on a Hindu carried love, and not the politics of hate..
And five, this was a well thought out gesture, planned, and well executed. In the process Rahul Gandhi was able to immediately raise the barriers---without seeming to---between the kind of politics the Congress was committed too unlike the “BJP/RSS” that was bent on attacking citizens of India all across the country. And demonstrate that too the ordinary folk who love such gestures, and drama. In fact while critics are deliberating over the hug, the citizens have come out to hug the Congress MP and applaud him for his politics of love.
The wink, in turn, took care of a large section of the critics though. Maybe more spontaneous and not planned out, but definitely caught on camera and by the media, the wink seemed to mock at what he had just done---that is hugged the Prime Minister---and laugh quietly with his MP friend. A ‘we got them’ wink; a ‘I did it’ wink; a ‘it worked’ wink as the two exchanged a smile at an hour well spent.
In the process Rahul Gandhi took the top seat in what appeared to be an effortless exercise. No false notes, just passion. No hesitation. No anger. Just a smile when the BJP members kept interrupting him. A firmness indicated when he refused to yield when Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman sought to interrupt him on the Rafale deal, and screamed for a few long minutes, her words inaudible in the din. And a reaching out when he said he would embrace even those in the BJP, and bring out their love, that was visible to him he said when they congratulated him for a speech well delivered. Again a political statement!
In the process Rahul Gandhi highlighted the party strategy against PM Modi that bears his imprint. A strong no holds-barred opposition, but with smiles, a bit of humour, mocking, funny, quiet and in sharp contrast, stressing on peace, on love, on politeness, on inclusiveness..
All in all a good day for the Congress president, and as journalist said later in the evening, “after his speech there seems to be little else to listen to.”
The hug also took social media by storm. There was a lot of praise of the Congress President:
#RahulHugsModi was trending on Twitter, with users embracing the opportunity for humour: