- Rahul Gandhi hugged PM Modi during no-confidence motion against centre
- Gesture grabbed headlines, triggered debate
- Top Congress sources say move was unscripted, impulsive
The now-famous hug of Rahul Gandhi in Lok Sabha was just a spontaneous decision, "done on the spur of the moment" sources close to the Congress leader said.
The 47-year-old Congress leader's hug for the Prime Minister at the end of a no-holds-barred speech - declaring that he has nothing but love for him -- was upstaged by his wink to party colleague, caught on camera sometime later. While many in Twitter loved it, others interpreted it as a mark of his insincerity.
"You can abuse me, you can call me Pappu, but I don't have a speck of hatred against you. I will take out this hatred out of you and turn it into love," Mr Gandhi had said, referring to the pejorative rivals use for him.
While the Congress chief declared earlier too that he feels no hate for the Prime Minister, Friday's gesture -- probably a first in parliament -- had managed to surprise all.
The Prime Minister had initially explained it as the Congress chief's hunger for power. "In the morning, the voting was not over, the debate was also not over, one member comes running to me saying - Utho Utho Utho (up, up, up). What is his hurry to come to power?" PM Modi said in what was seen as his barb at Rahul Gandhi.
Then at a rally in Shahjahanpur, Uttra Pradesh, PM Modi said, "Yesterday in parliament I asked them please tell me the reason for this no-confidence...when they could not give me a reason, woh gale pad gaye (he gave me an unwanted hug)... but could not give a satisfactory explanation".
The BJP has dismissed Mr Gandhi's gesture in the Lok Sabha as childish. Even Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, who was seen grinning at the time, has indicated that she has been displeased by the lapse in protocol and the wink.
The positioning of Congress as a party of love and tolerance against what Mr Gandhi calls the anger and hatred spread by the ruling party, has been in the making for some time. Earlier last week, he tweeted his response to the "Muslim party" controversy with the punchline "I love all living beings, I am the Congress".
I stand with the last person in the line. The exploited, marginalised and the persecuted. Their religion, caste or beliefs matter little to me.- Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) July 17, 2018
I seek out those in pain and embrace them. I erase hatred and fear.
I love all living beings.
I am the Congress.
In March, at the Congress plenary session, Mr Gandhi had spoken of "anger" being spread. "The nation is tired and looking for a way out, only Congress can show the way ahead... They (government) use anger, we use love. This country is ours," said.