External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Thursday told the Rajya Sabha that the Rafale deal did not come up for discussion with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who held a meeting with the minister during his visit to Delhi on the day of the Supreme Court verdict on the issue.
Replying to a query by Shiv Sena member Sanjay Raut, Swaraj said, “On that day, the Supreme Court verdict was pronounced. He (French Minister) was very happy. He expressed joy and felt there was no need to have a discussion.”
In a stern rebuttal to Congress MP Anand Sharma who asked if the minutes of the meeting between PM Narendra Modi and former French president Francois Hollande would be made public, the minister said, “There is no controversy, the controversy is only in your heads. I would like to say that whatever controversial issues you people had raised have been answered one after the other by the Supreme Court.”
Dissatisfied, Congress members then staged a walkout.
AAP MP Sanjay Singh, who is one of the petitioners in the case, accused Swaraj of doublespeak, a charge denied by the minister.
Meanwhile, Chairman Venkaiah Naidu started the day with a stern reminder to MPs that their lack of productivity has not gone unnoticed by people. Naidu also took exception to statements made by Opposition members outside the House blaming the chair for the disruptions.
The Chairman managed to complete a full morning session and took up all the listed questions amid walkouts by the AIADMK and Congress, and sporadic attempts by some women members to raise the long-pending issue of the Women’s Reservation Bill.
“One section is saying, ‘Why are you not taking action? Why are you silent?’ Some people have gone to the extent of giving interviews saying that the Chairman was not doing anything. For the information of the august House, I would like to say that I have spoken to those agitated members more than 10 times. I want to put this on record for the country and also for Parliament to know… Then I have called some members individually. Normally, that is not done. We only talk to the leaders. I called them and talked to them individually. Then I have spoken to other Opposition leaders also during the course of the morning meetings and subsequently. The Leader of the House also had a meeting earlier on this subject,” Naidu said.
The Chairman said the House needs to understand that it is not sending out a positive message by not working. “We have given three extra holidays in between. In asking for holidays, there seems to be a broad consensus. As far as the working of the House is concerned, there seems to be some reservation for some people,” Naidu said.
Reading out portions from an interview, Naidu said that he had ensured that things pertaining to the House were in order even when his mother-in-law died. “…even that day also, because of my mother-in-law’s demise, I spoke to the opposition leaders, so that there is no misunderstanding… In spite of this, such interviews are given and then directly Chairman is linked. You don’t perform, you don’t do your responsibility,” Naidu said.
The Chairman refused any leniency through the morning proceedings, be it in case of the time allotted or supplementaries.
The AIADMK staged a walkout after party member A Navneethakrishnan raised the Cauvery dam issue. When some MPs wanted to raise the matter of women’s reservation, Naidu told them that they would have to submit a separate notice on the matter.