Rahul Gandhi called PM Modi's 'raincoat' remark "saddening and shameful."
An angry Congress set the tone for the Budget session today, threatening to boycott both houses of parliament until Prime Minister Narendra Modi apologises for his "raincoat" remark about his predecessor Dr Manmohan Singh in the Rajya Sabha today. Rahul Gandhi has called it "saddening and shameful."
"When a Prime Minister reduces himself to ridiculing his predecessor, years his senior, he hurts the dignity of the parliament and the nation," the Congress Vice President tweeted, and also, "He demeans his position and himself more than anyone else."
Members of the main opposition party walked out of the house after angry protests when PM Modi, while defending the notes ban, said, "There is not a single black mark against him despite all the corruption. Only Doctor Saab knows how to bathe with a raincoat in the bathroom." The remark referenced the many corruption scandals that had besieged the Congress-led Manmohan Singh government.
Dr Singh, who is a member of the Rajya Sabha, was present and walked out with the rest of his party. He refused to comment on PM Modi's remarks. Senior Congress leaders immediately hit back at PM Modi saying his words were in "extremely poor taste."
"We have never called him names even if he behaved as a dictator," said former Union Minister Anand Sharma, while another former minister Kapil Sibal said, "It is unbecoming of a Prime Minister to use such language. We have taken strong exception to it. We won't allow the PM to speak in the House unless he apologizes."
In the winter session of parliament last year, Dr Singh had said that while he did not disagree with the objectives of demonetisation, the cash crunch that had followed gave people limited or no access to the money in their accounts which amounted to "organised loot and legalised plunder."
"If you use words like loot and plunder for us, you should know we can pay back in the same coin," the PM said on Wednesday.
PM Modi had banned 500 and 1,000 rupee notes on November 8, 2016, in a move aimed at eliminating black money. The opposition of rival parties to the move, he said on Wednesday, had exposed a "horizontal divide between politicians and the people." The government and the people were together in their support for the war on corruption, he said.
The Congress has led a united opposition in protests against the notes ban that washed out the winter session and the government hopes to push important legislation in the Budget session. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has said he will present draft laws that support the Goods and Services Tax Bill for parliament's approval in the second part of the Budget session.
The Budget session started last week and parliament will break for a recess on Friday. It will reconvene on March 9 and will continue till April 12. While the BJP-led government has a big majority in the Lok Sabha or lower house it is in a minority in the Rajya Sabha and needs the support of opposition parties to push key bills.