The Opposition always knew what the outcome of the no-confidence vote would be, but it did not want to lose an opportunity to make a few political points against the BJP and the Modi government.

“The point of yesterday’s [Friday’s] debate: PM uses Hate, Fear and Anger in the hearts of some of our people to build his narrative. We are going to prove that Love and Compassion in the hearts of all Indians, is the only way to build a nation,” Congress president Rahul Gandhi tweeted on Saturday.

The Congress leader used his speech to reassert his Hindu identity and call himself a Siva devotee to counter the BJP’s campaign against him after an Urdu daily quoted him as saying that the Congress is a Muslim party.

“They [BJP] have explained the meaning of being a Hindustani [Indian]. It means no matter what they tell you, what they do to you [and] the lies spread against you, [whether they] abuse you or beat you up, you should have love in your heart … I am thankful to you that you taught me my religion, the meaning of being a Hindu and a Lord Siva devotee,” the Congress chief said the Lok Sabha.

Countering the PM

Congress supporters and members took to Twitter and Facebook to argue that while Mr. Gandhi tried hard not to read out from a prepared script, the Prime Minister referred to his notes more often than he had done in the past. Congress insiders say this is in stark contrast with earlier debates when the Prime Minister would ignore, or make light of, Mr. Gandhi’s challenge.

Ahead of the debate on Friday, several Congress MPs privately expressed doubts about how their leader would fare before Mr. Modi’s oratory.

“We neither have the numbers nor forceful speakers in the Lok Sabha who can match the PM. I wonder what we would achieve with the no-trust vote,” a senior Congress leader had told
The Hindu

But after the debate, several Congress leaders, including Randeep Surjewala and Shashi Tharoor, called the Congress chief’s speech a “game changer.”

“Normally, after the PM has spoken, other speeches fade away but Rahulji’s hug ensured that did not happen on Friday,” said another leader.

Short on specifics

Leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said Mr. Modi’s speech was “high on theatrics (
) and low on substance”. “We posed questions to PM Modi on Rafale deal, Nirav Modi, etc, but he didn’t answer any [of them],” Mr. Kharge said.

Despite not having numbers, the Congress voted in the no-trust vote to rebuild its voter base in Andhra Pradesh. By voting against the Modi government, the party was seeking to signal to the State that it would honour its commitments if it came to power in 2019.

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