New Delhi: The BJP had at least one reason to feel relieved at the end of a choppy week in Parliament that was bereft of substantive legislative business.
Its once feisty spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi, who had all but vanished from public view after the BJP came to power, returned as one of Narendra Modi's prime defenders against a belligerent Opposition, a role she had excelled in before he became Prime Minister.
Her parliamentary colleague Kirron Kher, also rarely heard, leapt into the combat zone, marking herself as someone the BJP could count on to answer the Congress, the Left and Trinamul invective for invective, decibel for decibel.
Notwithstanding parliamentary affairs minister M. Venkaiah Naidu's order to his MPs not to bait the Opposition or get trapped themselves, and to be on their best behaviour at least till the GST bill was passed, Meenakshi and Kirron held their own during the debate on "rising intolerance".
Kirron, for instance, refused to yield to the Congress after alleging that militant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale was "created by the Congress party", and recounted the army's storming of the Golden Temple.
Meenakshi trained her guns on Bengal and the "secular murders" allegedly committed by the state government.
"After a long spell, we finally found our voice through the ladies," gushed a fellow MP, admitting to having been "confused" whether the BJP was supposed to get aggressive or go into a shell on "intolerance".
Meenakshi and Kirron said they were clear about their stances.
"If someone is unfairly attacked, I'm not one to sit back and watch," said Kirron, recalling that when the BJP brass hemmed and hawed over Modi's anointment as the Lok Sabha campaign committee chief in Goa in June 2013, she had loudly rooted for him.
Party sources, privy to parliamentary tactics and decisions, said they weren't certain if the women had been Naidu's first choice.
Kirron said that as soon as she learnt that Parliament would debate "intolerance", she had made it known that she wished to speak. "I was not going to pass up this chance."
Meenakshi, who generally minds her Ps and Qs after spending long years with her seniors at the BJP headquarters and does not like to assert herself with the decision-makers, said she had been told a day in advance that she had been listed as a speaker.
When Meenakshi expressed surprise, the messenger asked if she did not wish to speak.
"I said, 'Absolutely I want to'," said Meenakshi and got down to preparing her speech right away.
"That was on November 29. We have a cosy Punjabi cabal in the central hall (of Parliament) that has me, Kirron, Naresh Gujral and K.D. Singh. They were just about to order lunch and settle for a chat when I said I was off, there was serious business to do."
Meenakshi's speech, though, was more tempered than Kirron's who said that each time CPM member Mohammad Salim levelled a charge against the Modi government, "he set my teeth on edge".
"I felt I had to answer him likewise," Kirron said.
Meenakshi is an MP from New Delhi and Kirron represents Chandigarh, both coveted seats in north India. Although separated by 12 years, they are good friends and are fortuitously seated next to each other in the Lok Sabha.
Meenakshi is a lawyer by education and training, and Kirron is an actress and the wife of actor Anupam Kher, also an ardent Modi votary.
When the BJP was in the Opposition, Meenakshi was part of a fiery gender trio that included Nirmala Sitharaman and Smriti Irani.
Nirmala and Smriti are ministers and too caught up in work-related issues to speak up for the BJP although Nirmala is fielded occasionally to attack the Congress.
Meenakshi had retreated to the background, making it clear that she didn't want to remain a spokesperson in perpetuity.
Yet Meenakshi and Kirron sounded coy when asked if they would like to become ministers.
"I have a constituency to mind," said Kirron. "But thanks for asking the question./ The Telegraph Calcutta