NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two hour confrontationist address on the President’s address yesterday played out in the Rajya Sabha that was adjourned and disrupted repeatedly by a direct slanging march between the treasury and opposition benches today, with both accusing the other of slandering democracy and the rules of Parliament.

In a marked shift, the House proceedings were held up by the treasury benches with members and Ministers on their feet shouting slogans,and the Congress playing the role of the government by demanding restoration of order in the Rahya Sabha. “Maafi mango, maafi mango” shouted the BJP MPs refusing to allow former Finance Minister P.Chidmabaram to be heard, just as the Opposition had interrupted PM Modi’s address with protests after he attacked and targeted the Congress party and the Nehru-Gandhi family, starting from Jawaharlal Nehru.

The day began with the Rajya Sabha being disrupted by an angry Congress party protesting against PM Modi’s remarks against party MP Renuka Chowdhury. Chairman Venkiah Naidu chided the members for their “unbecoming” behaviour and adjourned the House. During his reply to the President’s address, Modi had questioned the Congress for taking the credit for the Aadhar scheme, maintaining that this had been first raised by BJP leader L.K.Advani in the Upper House as far back as 1998. Chowhdury burst into loud laughter. Modi urged the Chairperson not to stop her with the comment, “"Sabhapati ji meri aapse vinti hai Renuka ji ko kuch mat kahiye. Ramayan serial ke baad aisi hansi sunne ka saubhagya aaj jaake mila hai (I request you not to say anything to Renuka ji. After the Ramayan serial, we got the privilege of hearing this kind of laughter only today.”

The Congress took this up and started the day with a tweet , “we condemn PM Modi’s derogatory remark against former Union Minister and RS MP Renuka Chowdhury.” And added what is developing to be a confrontation between the Chairperson and the Opposition benches, “we also urge the RS Speakeer Venkiah Naidu to not act in a partisan manner and accord due respect to a fellow member of the House.”

This was followed by Congress leader Sonia Gandhi’s address to the parliamentary party where she lambasted the Prime Minister. This became an issue for the BJP MPs in the Rajya Sabha who kept up a sustained chant of ‘Sonia Gandhi maafi mango” with Congress leader Anand Sharma wondering at the “unprecedented” position of the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ravi Shankar Prasad actually inciting the treasury benches to disrupt the House. He said that this had never been seen before. Prasad shortly after reminded the Opposition that their protests all through the PM’s speech was also unprecedented and unwarranted.

Sonia Gandhi who is the chairperson of the Congress parliamentary party minced no words this morning in attacking the Prime Minister and the performance of the government. The BJP riled with her use of words such as “arrogant” and “lies” kept up a steady chant against Sonia Gandhi. After acknowledging her son as her boss in a reference that raised many a political eyebrow, the Congress leader went on to say (excerpts from her speech):

It has been almost four years since this government came to power. This has been a period in which institutions that are at the foundation of our democracy have come under systematic assault—Parliament itself, the judiciary, media and civil society. Investigative agencies have been let loose against political opponents. An all-pervasive atmosphere of fear and intimidation has been created. Liberal, secular and democratic traditions are being wantonly damaged. The pluralistic nature of our society—which has been its strength for centuries—is being eroded.

This government announces what it calls new programmes and initiatives ever so often, unveiling them with the flourish of a magician. In reality, they are simply recycled schemes that were launched during the UPA government. True, the new names are catchy and colourful, perhaps much more so than during our time, we must admit. But this seems to be a game of Maximum Publicity, Minimum Government, or put another way, Maximum Marketing, Minimum Delivery. If this government is to be believed, India had accomplished nothing before May 2014. The arrogance and dishonesty of thistells us that the Modi government is out of touch with reality, and lives by its own propaganda and lies. We need no further evidence of this than the Prime Minister’s speech in the Lok Sabha yesterday morning.

As we look around us, we see a deeply troubled country and deeply troubled people. Jammu and Kashmir continues to bleed. We share the anguish of our brothers and sisters in that state. We must combat cross-border terrorism forcefully—on that there can be no compromise. We salute our jawans who are bearing the brunt. Our hearts go out to the families of those who have laid down their lives for our country. Side-by-side, we must also ask, where is the healing touch, where is the developmental thrust, where is the political engagement that was so much in evidence when Dr Manmohan Singh was Prime Minister? In Nagaland, an accord was announced with great fanfare more than two years ago. We are still awaiting its details.

The minorities feel unsafe and are being subjected to barbarous attacks. Dalits have come under renewed and widespread atrocities,as have women. In many cases this violence, specially against minorities and dalits is not sporadic or random, but orchestrated to polarize our society for narrow political gains. We saw this in both UP and Gujarat. We will no doubt see it again in Karnataka. Such polarization is criminal in a democracy, yet those in power look the other way.

And what do we make of the government resorting to fictitious arguments to justify the secrecy about the price of one of India’s biggest defence purchases - the Rafael fighter aircraft ? Or its refusal to respond to wholly justified demands to satisfactorily investigate certain sensitive legal cases of far reaching political consequence.

In a direct attack on PM Modi she further said: Personalized diplomacy and public bear-hugsare all very well but there is no substitute for institutionalized processes, for hard work and preparation, and for continuity in our national policies.

Also see: PM-Modi-Ko-Gussa-Kyon-Aata-Hai-with-Apologies-to-Saeed-Mirza-and-Albert-Pinto