A portion of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's speech in parliament on Thursday, with reference to a Congress parliamentarian, has been deleted from the records in a development that is rare and embarrassing for the government.
PM Modi made the comments in the Rajya Sabha after the government's candidate, Harivansh, won the election for the post of deputy chairperson. Congress's BK Hariprasad was the opposition candidate in the closely-fought election.
PM Modi, in his speech congratulating Harivansh, said the election was between "two Haris". He went on to take a swipe at Mr Hariprasad, playing on his initials, which was seen as derogatory and infuriated the Congress. Immediately after, he praised Mr Hariprasad for doing his bit to protect the dignity of democracy in a lost battle.
While BJP leaders called it an example of Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu's fairness and non-partisanship, the Congress said the prime minister's words, spoken as part of a congratulatory speech on the floor of the house, were ill-chosen and unseemly.
"I think it becomes a massive shame for this country. The PM himself uses unparliamentary expressions in any house of the Parliament," said Congress lawmaker Shashi Tharoor.
"I think Mr Modi is a very fine speaker and rhetorician. He prides himself on being able to find play of words on everything and I think that should be applauded. We need some creativity of expression but at the same time, there are some limits that must not be crossed and very sadly it is clear that these limits have been crossed," he added.
It is rare but this may not be the first instance of a prime minister's comments being expunged. In 2013, after a sharp exchange in Parliament between then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Arun Jaitley, who was in the opposition, resulted in some words used by both of them being deleted.
The government's win in the Rajya Sabha test has delivered a blow to the opposition's efforts to gather forces to take on the ruling BJP in the 2019 national election. The opposition missed several members in the house yesterday. The BJP, on the other hand, ensured its victory by meticulously reaching out to allies. Even minister Arun Jaitley came to the house for the first time since a surgery, to vote.