FDI debate: Jamhure, Banarasi paan and 24-inch potato

What is a parliamentary debate without a touch of nastiness? If you have a taste for verbal barbs, sarcasm and condescending exchanges, trust our leaders to deliver. They really love to tear into each other. They just need an occasion. Yesterday’s rather serious debate on FDI carried nastiness in liberal quantity.

When the topic is sarcasm it’s difficult to kick off without a mention of the irrepressible Lalu Prasad, the Rashtriya Janata Dal chief. He was all fire and brimstone while taking on his favourite target, the BJP. He clearly overstepped the line by getting into some monkey business. He called a BJP leader 'jamhure’, which means a monkey who dances to the commands of his master. Predictably, the BJP leaders were not amused and a minor storm broke out. He withdrew the word later but justified his expression, saying it meant 'player', not 'monkey'.

Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj. PTI

But Lalu was not done yet. He broke into an impromptu couplet—it was atrocious, one must admit—targeting Leader of Opposition, Sushma Swaraj: "Mohabbat mein tumhe aansoon bahana nahin aata...Benaras aake Benaras ka paan khana nahin aata (You don’t know how to shed tears in love, coming from Banaras you don’t know how to chew paan)." If there’s any profound meaning somewhere in the couplet, well, don’t bother.

Not known to shy away from a challenge, Sushma shot back: "Aapko gaathen kholna nahin aata, aur maskari ke alawa bolna nahin aata (You don’t know how to untie knots and you don’t know how to speak without indulging in silly talk," she said. Sushma, normally a brilliant orator, would get no awards for this ugly bit of work, but it was a good match to Lalu’s nonetheless.

Kapil Sibal, who would easily lose any popularity contest anywhere in the world without any effort, was at his sarcastic best while taking on the opposition. Sample this one targeted at Sushma: "Aap itna achcha bolti hain ke aisa lagta hai ki aap sab sahi bol rahi hain." (When you speak, you speak so well that you think whatever you say is right). And this one aimed at the Left: "Inkii toh ideology hii foreign hai. Foreign Direct Ideology" (Their ideology itself is foreign. It is Foreign Direct Ideology).

Great show so far. But there was more. Congress MP Deepender Hooda surely got carried away by his own rhetoric while claiming that "If you want 24 inch potatoes for fries come to Ambala." He was responding Sushma’s allegations that McDonald's doesn't use Indian potatoes since they find them too small for their fries. Twenty-four inch potatoes, huh? Potatoes are not supposed to be measured in inches in the first place. Maybe Hooda has managed to discover a new variety that renders itself to such measurement. If that is the case it should be shortlisted for some global award dealing with sizes.

The response from the Leader of Opposition was quick. "Kisan ke bete ho, pehle aloo aur lauki ka farq toh samajh lo (You are a farmers’ son, learn to distinguish between a gourd and a tuber first)," she said. Good one. We don’t know yet if whether Hooda has come up with a rebuttal, but he must take all MPs to Haryana and show them around his 24-inch potato field. It would be a great service to Indian agriculture.

Yes, the debate had its funny moments. Given the acrimonious equations among our political parties, it was only expected that they would go at each other’s throat during the debate. But let’s forgive our leaders. They also need some entertainment. What’s better entertainment than ripping a rival apart?