One can almost feel General Election year 2019 creeping in, and nowhere is this more evident than inside Parliament. As prime minister Narendra Modi stepped up to the mic at the Rajya Sabha for a change, several members of the opposition were heard attempting to interrupt him. Among them was Congress member Renuka Chowdhury, who was heard laughing out loud. As speaker Venkaiah Naidu told her off in a decidedly partisan display (that included asking her to go see a doctor!), PM Modi was quick to interrupt him, saying, “Sabhapati ji, meri aapse vinti hai Renuka ji ko kuch mat kahiye. Ramayan serial ke baad aisi hansi sunne ka saubhagya aaj jaake mila hai (Please don’t admonish Renuka ji. We have had the privilege to listen to such laughter only now, years after the telecast of the Ramayana).”
Although the PM did not name names, Union Minister Kiren Rijiju was quick to splice the purported clip being referred to – a shot of the demoness Shoorpanakha from the Ramayana laughing stridently – with a segment featuring Chowdhury’s laugh. The insinuation couldn’t have been clearer. In the clips of the incident available on the internet, other BJP members, including party president Amit Shah, are seen thumping their desks in glee, breaking out in an even more uproarious display of emotion. Perhaps the only person who looked mildly shocked was Uma Bharti, although defense minister Nirmala Sitharaman and minister of finance and corporate affairs Arun Jaitley did not look amused either. And although Rijiju did eventually delete his post, Chowdhury had moved a breach of privilege motion against him by then. As for the PM, we’re guessing he’s had the last laugh – for now, at least.