Bharatiya Janata Party and opposition members traded barbs during a debate in Lok Sabha on the President's address on Monday, with Union minister Pratap Chandra Sarangi asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi's rivals to respect people's mandate and the Congress calling Modi a "very big salesman".
The ruling BJP chose Sarangi, who has hit headlines for his humble life style, to intiate the discussion on the Motion of Thanks to the President's address, and his an hour-long speech was high on its praise for Modi's leadership and nationalism pitch, drawing jeers from opposition benches.
The debutant MP from Odisha wondered if those who do not believe in 'Vande Mataram' slogan have any right to live in India and asserted that "tukde-tukde" gang will not be tolerated in the country.
Criticising Modi is like hitting one's head against the Himalayas, he said and took a dig at the opposition for allegedly seeking proof of Balakot air strike, asking if people "seek proof from their mother for addressing their father as father".
The opposition should respect people's mandate for a man with humble background like Modi and against dynasty, he said, referring to the BJP's massive win in the Lok Sabha polls.
In his response, Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury took a swipe at Sarangi for "crossing all limits" in his praise for Modi and likening the prime minister to Swami Vivekanand.
The Modi government is "compliment-addicted" and is driven by manipulation, Chowdhury said and then went on to use a derogatory term for Modi. The Chair ordered that his remakrs by expunged as treasury benches protested.
The leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha later clarified outside the House that he did not mean the word he had used and blamed it on his poor Hindi.
Chowdhury's derogatory barb at the prime minister had come after his criticism of Sarangi for his "excessive" praise for Modi prompted many in treasury benches to refer to "India is Indira and Indira is India" comment made by the then Congress president Indira Gandhi when she was the prime minister.
The Congress leader said the BJP returned to power as Modi was a "very big salesman" and a "better salesman" while the Congress failed to market its products in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Hitting back at the BJP after Sarangi referred to alleged scams in the sale of 2G spectrum and coal block allocations, he said if there was a wrongdoing why are UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi not in jail.
"Why are they still in Parliament", he asked.
In his speech, Sarangi said the Congress gave India an "accidental prime minister", a reference to Manmohan Singh, and praised Modi for his strong leadership that ended "policy paralysis", "enhanced" global respect for India, targeted terrorists based in Pakistan and took welfare measures to the poor.
He said the Congress made the BJP realise the importance of strong leadership as policy paralysis was a "new norm" during the ten-year rule of the party with the "accidental prime minister" at the helm.
He said he is grateful to Narendra Modi for making a man like him, who hails from a humble background, a minister.
Taking on the Congress, Sarangi said ten years of the Congress-led UPA government was that of "misrule" and "full of corruption".
Emphasising that both Modi and his government are committed to the welfare of the poor and downtrodden, the minister said by 2022 every poor person will have a "pucca" house with toilet.
Listing achievements of Modi government, Sarangi said that poor women were provided gas cylinders and economically weaker sections were given reservation.
"Our goal is to make India a great nation,"the BJP MP said.
Sarangi also pointed out that Modi has received many international awards.
"We will give honest government and if you will not help us then people of India will not forgive you," he told the pposition members.
Chowdhury accussed the government of "political plagiarism" syndrome , saying it claimes achievements for everything amd ignores the foundation laid down by the Congress.
Invoking former Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, Chowdhury in his one-and-a-half hour long speech listed out the achievements under Congress Government and accused BJP of just renaming 19 of the 23 schemes of the Congress party.
"This Government has developed a new syndrome called political plagiarism... Congress party has been contributing to growth (since Independence), but one morning you suddenly say Congress has done nothing and you are doing all development work. It is nothing but travesty of truth...
"You are a government which can be called compliment addicted government driven by manipulation," said Chowdhury who was the first speaker from Opposition to initiate discussion on the Motion of Thanks.
Saugata Roy of the TMC reiterated his party's stand against use of EVMs in elections and demanded that the Election Commission srevert to the use of ballot papers.
Congress leader Sonia Gandhi was seen prompting Chowdhury while he was attacking the BJP in his speech.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah were present in the House.
Stating it was the Congress party which initiated revolution like Green Revolution, White Revolution and Technology Revolution in the country, and increased GDP growth, Chowdhury said it was also under the Congress that host of CPSEs like ONGC, IOC, NTPC, SBI and HAL were set up.
"Congress is the soul of the nation. Congress is synonymous with India... For us, country is ahead of the party... Although we have 52 members in the House, but we will continue to fight for the common man," he said.
He said the BJP did not mention Nehru's name in the President's address even once and that it does not show 'Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas' attitude of the Government.
Crediting Congress for a slew of government schemes and initiatives like NREGA, RTI, Right to Education and Food Security Act, Chowdhury said "you talk about hitting back at Pakistan with missiles. These missiles were built during the Congress tenure."
Targeting the Modi government, Chowdhury said the country is reeling under drought, but the government is not worried. "We want to lambast government for its failure on various issues," he said.
He said BJP MPs did not take steps to alleviate miseries of the people as they think Modi will do everything. "They think that praising Modi is sufficient, he will help them sail through (Modi baba paar lagayenge),"he said.