Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks about Sonia Gandhi in the context of AgustaWestland payoffs in election meetings created a storm in Rajya Sabha Monday, with the Congress stalling the House and subsequently giving a notice seeking permission to move a breach of privilege against the Prime Minister.
The issue saw the Trinamool Congress siding with the ruling BJP and demanding expulsion of the disrupting Congress members.
The Congress claimed that the PM has preempted CBI’s probe into irregularities in the chopper deal.
Giving the breach of privilege notice, Congress member Shantaram Naik quoted Rules 187 and 188 of the Rules of Procedures and Conduct of Business in the Council of States and said the Prime Minister has made a wild charge against UPA leaders — that they had taken money in the helicopter deal. He said Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, while replying to the debate in Rajya Sabha, had not said UPA leaders had taken money.
Nor did Parrikar say that the Italian court had said so, Naik pointed out.
“(But) the Prime Minister has contradicted the Defence Minister,” Naik said. “If the Defence Minister had such any proof…why did he not inform the House about it? Was he trying to misguide the House?…. The Defence minister has, therefore, committed a breach of privilege of the House…if what he has said is correct, then the Prime Minister has committed a breach of privilege of the House.”
Congress deputy leader of House Anand Sharma told The Indian Express: “The Defence Minister has ordered a probe. A probe is a policy announcement. (The) Prime Minister now commenting on it, which is well beyond what the Defence Minister has said, actually contradicts (the Defence Minister’s statement) because no court judgment has been authenticated or certified or tabled. “The court judgment which they refer to does not indict or name anyone as beneficiaries of any payoffs. Third, he (PM) is preempting a fair probe because the CBI reports to him. The Prime Minister should come to the House and substantiate what he has said, or he should withdraw his remarks.”
As soon as the House met Monday, Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad raised the issue of the Prime Minister’s election campaign speech. He showed clipping from The Indian Express report on Modi’s election rally in Kerala and Tamil Nadu and asked why the Prime Minister did not intervene in debates on the issue in Parliament.
The Defence Minister, Azad said, had not named any UPA leader in his reply.
Congress MP Pramod Tiwari claimed, “Either the PM is lying or the Defence Minister is lying…. One of them is lying.”
Deputy Chairman P J Kurien, however, turned down the demand for a discussion on the issue under Rule 267, saying he does not take cognizance of what has been said outside the House and reported in the media, prompting Congress members to hit the Well with slogans against Modi. “What the PM has said is outside the House. It is a political speech. What can the Chair do,” Kurien was heard asking amid the sloganeering. The House had to be adjourned multiple times before adjourning for the day in the afternoon.
In Lok Sabha, Congress members raised the issue soon after the House assembled.
Congress questioned how the PM could make such allegations when Defence Minister had not stated this in his reply to debates on the controversy in both the Houses last week. Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge was heard saying that the PM’s comments could influence the CBI and ED which are investigating the matter.
Asking “which court has indicted” Sonia Gandhi, Kharge said the party might be forced to move Privilege Motion against the PM.
Congress members then staged a walkout.
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