The Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party government on Friday won its first no-confidence motion in the Lok Sabha after a 12-hour debate. The highlight of the fiery debate, where several leaders, both from the government and Opposition, spoke, was Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s surprise decision to hug Modi, and then following it up with a cheeky wink at a party colleague.
While the moment set off hundreds of memes on social media and gave netizens an opportunity to embrace humour, newspapers across the country splashed the picture of the hug across their front pages, to commentary ranging from “Rahul Gandhi creates flutter” to “theatrics and drama”.
The Bharatiya Janata Party won the vote 325-126, but Modi’s speech was undermined by dull subjects and protesting MPs. Modi called the no-confidence motion “a forced test of the Congress allies” and claimed that some people harboured a desire to take his place.
Several Opposition parties, led by the Telugu Desam Party, had moved the no-confidence motion against the Bharatiya Janata Party. Other leaders that spoke during the session included Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav and Leader of Opposition in the House Mallikarjun Kharge.
The Times of India emphasised that all eyes were on the face-off between the Congress chief and the prime minister. “The government sailed through with a bigger margin than expected, but with Lok Sabha elections looming, the drama has just begun,” the newspaper said. The daily also highlighted the now-famous hug and wink. “Rahul Creates Flutter, Modi Has Last Word,” it said, pointing out the various parties that backed the BJP and those that did not.
The Indian Express’ headline on the front page read “Opposition loses hug of war”. Besides highlighting the speeches by Gandhi and Modi, it also devoted space to the Congress’ claim that the hug was spontaneous, while the BJP described it as drama. The theatrics were a way of pitching themselves and their parties for the 2019 elections, the daily observed.
“PM wins test, hits out at critics,” the Hindustan Times said. With a central image of the hug, the daily highlighted both the Opposition’s complaints as well as the government’s responses.
“Hurricane Huggie” screamed The Telegraph’s headline. “Hug crushes 56-inch chest that responds with anger and hate,” the daily said. The government’s win of the no-confidence motion seemed like only an afterthought, with: “Oh yes, government wins 325-126”.
“BJP, don’t be a cry baby but be a huggie baby,” the daily said with the picture of a baby in diapers. The caption read: “If Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared nonplussed by Rahul Gandhi’s hug, the BJP later deployed minister Ananth Kumar to describe the universal gesture of goodwill and peace as ‘childish’. In his reply, Modi termed Rahul’s gesture a ‘bachkani harkat’.”
The daily also highlighted other “exploits of the master hugger”.
The New Indian Express also played on the words trust and confidence. Its headline said: “Modi gains trust, Rahul confidence.” The daily also described the other major events from Parliament on Friday, highlighting Modi’s gestures to Rahul Gandhi and several of his barbs.
The Dainik Jagran said the Bharatiya Janata Party won the majority vote as expected. It said Modi addressed each of Gandhi’s claims in a “tit-for-tat” manner. Its headline highlighted Modi’s statement that he is not a trader like Gandhi.