Congress President Rahul Gandhi hugged Prime Minister Narendra Modi in parliament on Friday even as an amused house looked on and Modi himself was left astounded. The dramatic moment came immediately after Rahul completed his fire-and-brimstone speech in parliament as the house discussed the first ever no-confidence motion against Narendra Modi government.
What's in that hug? It was unprecedented, dramatic and it happened quite out of the blue. It wasn't a regular hug diplomacy on show. Hugs are passé in politics but this will be termed different. Rahul was composed as he walked up to Modi and fell on him in a weighty hug, but the prime minister was least expecting it. The house was in pure shock. Modi, regaining composure after a moment, called Rahul back and the two had an encore and they exchanged some words as well.
The hug of the year came after Rahul had arguably made his best ever performance in the Lok Sabha. He excoriated the prime minister and the BJP top brass. He also displayed the courage to dig up the Rafale jet bribery allegations and made a frontal attack against Modi and Defence Minister Nirmala Seetharaman.
The Congress President sounded the bugle calls for the 2019 election in his speech and nearly won the leadership battle brewing in the wider gamut of the Opposition in one fell swoop of a performance.
And then came the hug. There will be debates in the coming days as to what that means. Was it a left-handed compliment? Or was Rahul making peace with Modi after a blistering attack on him -- the individual as well as the prime minister? One of the scathing comments made by Rahul was that Modi was lying through his teeth.
Mod can't look me in the eyes, Rahul averred. At one point the Congress president said the Modi-Amit Sha combine was trying to hang on to power as they knew that they would face consequences of their actions if they were out of power. That was a dire warning, verging on a threat. A threat of legal consequences. And that was followed by a hug.
Has Rahul come of age? Is he capable of creating his own narratives in politics and holding on to them? Does he not fear anymore about the vicious backlash of an action like a dramatic hug in parliament? Has he forever shed the stage fright that nearly undid him in 2008 as he rambled on with the infamous 'Kalavathi' story during a speech in parliament?
Probably yes. Probably a little more than that, coming as it did from someone who always came across as well-meaning if at all a little naive. This hug might go down in history as another display of naiveté. But it appears that Rahul is not fearing that stigma anymore.
"You can call me things, You can call me Pappu, but I do not have any hate for you," he said in his speech that preceded his hug.
Perhaps he wanted to give a proof in the old-fashioned way about the virtue he had just preached-- that he holds no malice against the people he was criticising most fiercely.