COLUMN: No ‘Holy Cows’ in democracy please

By: Smita Mishra
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In another typically disproportionate reaction, the Congress has tried to create much hype against Prime Minister Narendra Modi's left-handed comments on former prime minister Manmohan Singh. Modi's jibe was meant to expose the Teflon-coating enjoyed by his predecessor and how no uncharitable questions were raised against him even as he presided over one of the most corrupt and paralysed govt ever.

Much as senior Parliamentarians like Anand Sharma cry hoarse, the fact remains that Modi resorted to no abuse except a slightly sarcastic remark about nothing 'stuck' with the former PM. To be fair, even this barb would have never come had Singh not used words like 'monumental failure', 'organised loot and legalised plunder' on the floor while slamming a bold like decision demonetisation. While these high sounding phrases were quoted widely by the national and international media, Singh or his Congress colleagues have yet to present data supporting any of these words.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks in the Rajya Sabha in New Delhi

To watch Congressmen now raise questions on Parliamentary decency seems like a singular case of 'selective memory'. Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi's tweet about dignity of the Prime Minister's Office is even more ironical when one remembers the tearing of the 'criminalisation of politics' Bill in Press Club of India which could have been a truly comical scene had the situation not been so tragic.

So what exactly is the Congress party upset about? If it is the language, there wasn't a single un-Parliamentary word in Modi's short sentence. Presuming the anger is against targeting MMS, even if one forgets the Rahul episode, it should be clear by now there cannot be any holy cows in a democracy. A prime minister (even if he comes through Rajya Sabha) can hardly expect to be spared forever when his regime has set a record of sorts in 'monumental plunder' and 'organised loot'. However, coming from the Congress, it is hardly a surprise. The party has always maintained the 'holy Cow' argument when it comes to 'The Family'.

The question then is why the same touchiness for Manmohan Singh? The only argument that seems plausible is because a direct attack on the former PM may eventually lead to those who actually commanded and directed the UPA regime. Therefore, while Rahul may be allowed to tear the PM's Bill to shreds, all hell breaks lose if Narendra Modi makes even a left-handed barb.

Of course, the Congress leaders' record in making personalised remarks on Modi (before and after his assuming charge in Delhi) calls for an entire chapter. From impotent to rat to Ravana to maut ka saudagar (merchant of death) and khoon ki dalali (blood-broker), top Congress persons can put a two-bit Bollywood potboiler's writer to shame.

In a case of definite overkill, the Congress has now decided to boycott Modi in Parliament if he does not apologise for his words. The impact of this strategy will only be visible in the post-recess segment of the Budget session. But if the opposition sticks to its stand, this may just serve as the icing for the BJP's election cake. Party supporters who may be feeling a bit complacent till now are likely to gear up with the personal targetting of their leader and may just pull up their socks for the big fight in UP.

(Smita Mishra, advisor, Prasar Bharati)

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