New Delhi: In a rare show of political bitterness, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday targeted Dr Manmohan Singh for describing demonetisation as "loot" and "plunder" and slammed his predecessor with comments which infuriated the Congress and forced its members to walk out from the Rajya Sabha.
Prime Minister Modi's attack against Dr Manmohan Singh was so scathing and his choice of words so freakish that senior CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechuri said, "Insult, invective and abuse are Modi's only response to Indians suffering from callous and 'bereham' governance."
While participating in the debate on the motion of thanks for the President's address, Modi took on Manmohan Singh who had described demonetisation as "organised loot" and "legalised plunder", saying "the art of bathing in a bathroom with a raincoat on" is known only to the former Prime Minister as there is "no blot on him" despite "all the scams".
In his one hour and 10 minutes speech, Modi also dismissed observations made by economists across the world about the November 8 move to demonetise higher value currency, saying the move is "unparalleled" and economists can never calculate its effects as such a massive decision "has not been taken before anywhere in the world".
Modi first cast aspersions on the scholarship of Manmohan Singh, a former RBI governor and an eminent economist, saying he (Modi) recently came across a book purportedly written by Singh, but found out that only the foreword was by "Doctor sahib" (Manmohan Singh).
"Looks like, even the speech Doctor Sahib delivered in the last session...," Modi said, just stopping short of saying anything further, but implying that Singh's speech lambasting the note ban was not his own.
The Prime Minister continued amid aloud protests by the Congress members: "For around 35 years, he (Manmohan) has had a say or a role in India's economic policy and decisions. In these 35 years, we heard of many a scam, but he has remained free of any blemish."
"There is a lot for us politicians to learn... so much happened he did not get even a taint. Only Doctor Sahab (Manmohan Singh) knows the art of bathing wearing a rain coat," he said in a jibe, resulting to a huge uproar from Congress benches.
This provoked an angry reaction from Congress members who staged a walkout in the midst of the reply by the Prime Minister to a debate on Motion of Thanks to the President's Address which was later adopted by the House after negation of all the 651 amendments.
Members of Left, Trinamool Congress and JD(U) also staged a walkout after the reply, complaining that they were unhappy with Modi's statement and wanted to ask questions which was disallowed.
As Congress members created uproar and staged a walkout, an angry Modi said, "if you cross the limits of decorum, then you should have courage to listen to the response. We have the capacity to pay in the same coin. We do so within the limits of decorum and boundaries of the Constitution. They (Congress) don't want to accept the defeat in any form. How long will it continue??
He went on to add, "the person who held such a high post, used the words 'loot' and 'plunder' in the House. Then they (Congress) also should have thought 50 times (before using those words)."
Outside, the Congress criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his "raincoat" barb against Dr Manmohan Singh and demanded an apology for it. The party said the remark was in extremely poor taste.
Congress leader Kapil Sibal said the opposition party will not allow Modi to speak in Parliament unless he apologised.
"I have never seen a Prime Minister making such derogatory remarks about a former Prime Minister. The kind of words that he has used are unacceptable," said Congress leader Digvijaya Singh.
Justifying the walk out from Rajya Sabha, fromer Union Minister Chidambaram said that the Congress vacated the Parliament as it did not want to stoop to the level of Prime Minister Modi's debate.
"We are very disappointed and angry with what the Prime Minister said and we have expressed our protest by walking out. We could have stayed back in the house and created a ruckus. We could have stormed the well of the house and shouted down the Prime Minister. But that would have in circumstances of today brought us down to the level of the debate Mr. Prime Minister wanted," he said.