Rahul Gandhi stirs controversy after appearing to blow a kiss in parliament

Congress MP in 2018 famously winked and hugged Narendra Modi in the parliament

Rahul Gandhi returned to parliament this week after a criminal defamation conviction was overturned. EPA
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Indian opposition politician Rahul Gandhi has stirred a controversy by apparently blowing a kiss at a female minister in parliament on Wednesday, just minutes after delivering a hard-hitting speech against Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a no-confidence debate.

Mr Gandhi, 52, leader of the Indian National Congress, was making his first speech in parliament since April after his membership was restored this week.

A video clip of the incident posted on social media by Mr Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party shows Mr Gandhi making a gesture similar to a flying kiss towards Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani.

Ms Irani, who defended the government during the no-confidence debate over months of deadly community clashes in Manipur state, said Mr Gandhi “exhibited a misogynistic gesture towards female parliamentarians”.

“Only a misogynistic man can exhibit the gesture of a flying kiss towards female parliamentarians. This action sheds light on the lineage he originates from and reflects the attitude his family and party hold towards women,” Ms Irani said.

Women MPs from the ruling BJP lodged a complaint with the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, India's lower house of parliament.

“This is the first time we have seen such behaviour from an MP in the House. He made a gesture of a flying kiss at women MPs in the House – it is unacceptable," Agriculture Minister Shobha Karandlaje said.

Amit Malviya, head of the BJP's IT department, later shared a six-second clip of Mr Gandhi's gesture, calling it shameful.

Congress leaders said that it was the BJP’s strategy to divert attention from the questions raised by the opposition.

“Rahul Gandhi asked some very pointed questions to the government about complete inaction and mishandling of Manipur. The government is not addressing those questions. This is the classic tactic of the BJP,” said Congress MP Karti Chidambaram.

During a no-confidence debate against Mr Modi’s government in 2018, Mr Gandhi famously winked and hugged the prime minister in the parliament, startling Mr Modi and other parliamentarians.

The Congress leader, whose late father, grandmother and great grandfather served as prime ministers, returned to parliament on Monday after the Supreme Court stayed his conviction in a defamation case involving the Modi surname.

Updated: October 31, 2023, 11:42 AM