At the end of his fiery speech during Friday’s no-confidence motion debate in Parliament, Congress President Rahul Gandhi walked up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and hugged him. The cameras caught Modi looking startled, before he recovered his composure quickly enough to offer Gandhi a handshake. As Gandhi returned to his seat, he was caught smiling broadly and winking, presumably, at a colleague.
The hug came after Gandhi had launched a scathing attack on the Bharatiya Janata Party government on several issues, including the Rafale deal to buy French fighter jets, women’s safety, the agrarian crisis, demonetisation and Goods and Services Tax.
Gandhi’s speech was frequently interrupted the ruling BJP, prompting Speaker Sumitra Mahajan to adjourned the House at one point.
When the session resumed as as Gandhi worked up to a climax, he said: “I’m grateful to BJP and RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological parent of the BJP] that they’ve explained the meaning of Congress, and of being Hindu.”
He added: “You have anger for me. For you, I’m Pappu. But I have no anger for you. I am Congress.”
There was some commentary about whether the political implications of the gesture. Dhruv Rathee, who has a popular YouTube show, made a reference to the “jaadu ki jhappi” or magic hugs that the character played by actor Sanjay Dutt hands out in the hit Bollywood film Munna Bhai MBBS.
But for other users, the moment of political theatre was the opportunity to set off a thousand internet memes.
Modi is known for enthusiastically hugging his foreign counterparts and some Twitter users suggested that Gandhi had used the occasion to beat him at his own game.
Some users have also compared Gandhi’s wink with Malayalam actress Priya Prakash Varrier’s iconic wink in her film Oru Adaar Love, which also became an internet sensation.