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A day when Congress appeared heavier than BJP

March 24, 2011 01:30 IST

It was after a long gap that an aggressive and united Congress took the Bharatiya Janata Party head on in both the Houses of Parliament over the WikiLeaks exposure on the cash-for-vote scam as the party fielded its brightest and the best.

In the Lok Sabha Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal put Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj and senior BJP leader L K Advani on the mat by 'exposing their hypocrisy and double speak' while in the Rajya Sabha it was Home Minister P Chidambaram who took on Arun Jaitley, rebutting him word for word.

But the day belonged to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who, tongue-in-cheek, took on both L K Advani and Sushma Swaraj and in the process brought the House down as the elated treasury benches cheered him on.

Responding to Sushma's criticism of him that he had no right to be prime minister if he did not know what was happening in his government, the prime minister said he could not compete with Sushma when it came to a turn of phrase or beat her at oratory.

But he said he could recite a couplet as she had done, "Mana ki tere deed ke kabil nahin hain hum, tu mera shaukh to dekh, tu mera intizar to kar". (I admit that I am not worth your attention but appreciate my interest and my patience).

The couplet hit home as Sushma blushed while the Congress members roared with laughter and appreciation and clapped and cheered. The mood was obviously upbeat after Kapil Sibal had set the stage by openly and roundly attacking the BJP and its senior leadership on the WikiLeaks.

The prime minister then turned to L K Advani and said that in 2004 the BJP expected to be back in power and Advani thought he would be the prime minister. But instead the Congress was elected to power.

"Advani saw me as the usurper who had taken over the prime minister. He thought it was his birthright to be the prime minister and he has never forgiven me for this. I would ask him to wait for the next three and a half years".

Again the Congress benches clapped and thumped their desks in glee. After having been at the receiving end for months against a BJP onslaught, the treasury benches were happy that the senior BJP leadership was being targeted.

For the prime minister the targeting of Advani appears to be a matter of faith. Certainly the best comes out when he retaliates against Advani and this is what happened again today.

In his reply, the prime minister repeated his earlier pronouncement that he had no knowledge of votes being purchased and no one from the Congress or the government was involved in the distribution of money.

The government made it clear that the BJP was involved in the sting operation and was trying to destabilise the government, then. Kapil Sibal quoted from a report appearing in Tehelka.com which makes it clear that the BJP was involved in the entire operation.

The Congress party later said that the Tehelka report should also be taken into account when the issue is investigated further.

As the two Houses discussed the WikiLeaks story, it became clear that the Congress MPs had decided to block and heckle the shouting BJP members at every turn refusing to let them get away. 

So much so that even Congress president Sonia Gandhi got into the act when senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha was speaking. Referring to the prime minister's speech made earlier that the cash-for-vote scam was a closed chapter since the Congress had won the general election, Sinha said a member of the House was in jail even though he had won an election (he was referring to former Jharkhand CM Madhu Koda) but he was interrupted by Sonia Gandhi who shouted and wanted to know about Sinha's party in Jharkhand and what they were doing.

 

As she shouted , BJP MPs clapped and shouted, "Bole, Bole, Madam Bole", referring to the normally quiet and silent Sonia Gandhi who was agitated enough to speak out. Congress benches also cheered when she spoke.

For the Congress and the government, the debate was certainly a morale booster as the party showed spirit and fought back, having been at the receiving end on a number of scams and issues of corruption.

With the budget session coming to an end in another two days and the action shifting to the electoral battlefield where the BJP is not a player in these elections, the Congress hopes to come back with a bigger smile after pocketing a number of states, having weathered a great deal of heckling and protesting from the BJP benches.

Renu Mittal in New Delhi