Congress attacks PM Modi over 'raincoat' remark, BJP defends him

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi slammed for his raincoat jibe in Rajya Sabha
Prime Minister Narendra Modi slammed for his raincoat jibe in Rajya Sabha

New Delhi : Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "bathing with a raincoat on" jibe against his predecessor Manmohan Singh triggered a political outrage on Thursday with the BJP defending the remark and lashing out at the Congress for disrupting Parliament proceedings over the row.

Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi ridiculed Modi for his "penchant" to grab headlines and said the remark was an insult to the nation.

Addressing a rally in the poll-bound Uttarakhand, Gandhi said Modi was the first Prime Minister who can't speak with respect about his predecessors.

"Modi has this weakness of grabbing headlines. The day he isn't in the news, he doesn't get a proper sleep. To get into headlines, be it inside Parliament or outside, he creates this laughter show of sorts."

Gandhi said the remark was "not a personal insult rather an insult to the entire nation because it was the people of this country who elected Manmohan Singh as their Prime Minister".

Bharatiya Janaata Party President Amit Shah rallied behind Modi and targeted Manmohan Singh over a series of alleged scams in the previous Congress-led UPA government.

"What wrong did Modi say by pointing out that Manmohan Singh didn't take responsibility for any of the scams," said Shah, enumerating various scams during the UPA regime, at an election rally in the hill state.

Shah said the Congress Vice President himself had humiliated Manmohan Singh by shooting down a cabinet decision when the UPA was in power and asked him to recall Sonia Gandhi's "maut ka saudagar" (merchant of death) comment made against Modi during the 2007 Gujarat assembly elections.

The issue also resurfaced in Parliament with the Congress joined in by the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal satging a walkout from the Lok Sabha.

Raising the issue during Zero Hour, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said Modi's remark was unbecoming of a Prime Minister and "not good for parliamentary democracy".

Congress members also trooped near Speaker Sumitra Mahajan's podium and started shouting slogans against Modi and demanding his apology.

The Rajya Sabha also witnessed uproar over the issue with Congress members demanding Modi's apology.

Upping the ante, the Congress also threatened to boycott Modi in the rest of the Budget session if he didn't withdraw his remarks.

"We will boycott the Prime Minister when he comes to the House. We will not listen to him. But, we will not assault the dignity of the office of the PM. At the same time we'll continue to protest," Deputy Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma told reporters.

Senior BJP leader and Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad defended Modi's remark and slammed the Congress. He targeted Manmohan Singh for "allowing" scams from the "space to beneath the earth" during his decade-long prime ministership.

"Fun, pun, repartee, sarcasm, hot exchange of words are part of a healthy democracy. Why so much fuss about this," said Prasad.

"What wrong did Modi say? The entire Manmohan Singh regime witnessed a new low of corruption where we had scams in the space -- the Antrix-Devas, on air -- the 2G spectrum. On land, there was the Commonwealth Games scam, on water there was the submarine scam and beneath the earth -- the coal scam," the Law Minister said.

Union Information and Broadcasting Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu said Modi had actually complimented the Congress leader.

"The Prime Minister did not insult Manmohan Singh, he gave a compliment to him by saying that even after such a long public life he has had no taint."

Attributing the raincoat jibe to Modi's "peculiar imagination", CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said even if Manmohan Singh had risen up to respond to Modi, the Prime Minister in all likelihood would not have listened to him.

"There is a saying that in a street fight, a gentleman never wins because he cannot stoop to the level of the street fighter," said Yechury, attacking Modi for "destroying" the accountability to Parliament by refusing to answer members.

"The Prime Minister refuses to answer a single point raised in the debate, destroying accountability to Parliament and people. He has lowered the bar of parliamentary democracy to near-obscene levels. Fascistic demagoguery is no substitute for accountability."