The Lok Sabha was on Friday adjourned four times amid ruckus over remarks made by Minister of State, Finance, Anurag Thakur on the Gandhi family and the charitable trusts run by them.
During a discussion following the introduction of a Bill dealing with certain relaxations given to the PM CARES Fund, Thakur said that the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) was established in 1948 by Jawaharlal Nehru to benefit one family. He also said that the Gandhi family had cheated the nation by establishing various charitable trusts which were used for “personal benefit”.
The House could finally resume only in the evening, after Speaker Om Birla suggested that Thakur address the members. In a statement, Thakur said, “I did not intend to hurt anyone. I am pained if my words hurt anybody.”
The war of words began soon after Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman introduced the Taxation and Other Laws, Relaxation of Certain Provisions Bill, 2020. The Congress and Trinamool Congress objected, saying the Bill sought to bring the PM CARES Fund under the same laws that govern the PMNRF.
To this, Thakur said, “In 1948, the then PM Jawaharlal Nehru ordered establishment of the PM’s National Relief Fund but it hasn’t been registered yet. How did it get FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act) registration? How did you give it tax exemption when even the Trust is not registered? You made that Trust for just one family, the Gandhi family. This fund (PM CARES) is for the 138 crore people of this country. The PMNRF had Sonia Gandhi and Nehru as its members. This should be discussed in detail. The nation must see your real face.”
The Congress immediately protested, raising slogans and demanding an apology from Thakur for his charges against Nehru and Sonia. Leader of the party in the House Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury retorted that the PM CARES Fund had received donations from Chinese companies such as TikTok. The Trinamool Congress joined in after the Treasury benches made some remarks linked to West Bengal.
Given the commotion, the House was first adjourned around 3.50 pm for half-an-hour, then till 5 pm after sitting for about 10 minutes in between. As it sat at 5 pm, there were protests again and the House was adjourned immediately till 5.30 pm, and subsequently till 6 pm.
Earlier, asking why Nehru’s and Sonia’s names were being dragged in, Chowdhury said, “Is this an (Bill) introduction debate?… Look at our speech. Is there anything unparliamentary in that? Nirmala Sitharaman also spoke nicely… They are disrespecting Nehruji. What kind of things are they saying taking Sonia Gandhi’s name?”
Noting that PM CARES Fund had accepted donations from Chinese companies, the Congress leader said, “How did TikTok pay Rs 500 crore? How did, one after another, Chinese firms donate? This should be investigated… ”
Gaurav Gogoi, recently appointed deputy leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, said, “We haven’t come here to be subjected to unparliamentary language… The minister must apologise.”
Justifying his remarks, Thakur countered, “The names of the entire Nehru-Gandhi family should be taken. By fooling the nation you have gained personal benefits, erecting different charitable trusts. We will expose this. The Gandhi family has played with the country.”
After some remarks from the Treasury benches targeting the Trinamool, party MP Kalyan Banerjee accused the Speaker of shutting up Opposition members but allowing BJP members to say whatever they wanted.
Birla said this was unfair and he always gave everyone an opportunity to speak. He also threatened that if members continued to create ruckus and stood up to speak without being allowed to, he would throw them out of the House as it was interfering with Covid safety protocols.
Returning to the House only in the evening, the Speaker said he never meant to hurt anyone. Noting that Parliament was meeting under extraordinary conditions and the country’s eyes were on it, he appealed to the MPs to maintain the dignity of the House. “Baseless allegations and counter-allegations should be avoided… All of you are equal to me. Whatever I have done is just to keep the House in order,” he said, as the MPs applauded.
Congress MPs Shashi Tharoor and Manish Tewari were among those who opposed the introduction of the Bill earlier. Tharoor said, “The Bill seeks to amend the CGST Act, which will allow the government extension of time for actions under the Act in events such as a pandemic with retrospective effect. This will permit the government to retrospectively validate its failure and delay disbursal to states.”
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