PROCEEDINGS IN both Houses of Parliament were disrupted again on Wednesday, as Opposition members protested over separate issues. While AIADMK and DMK members raised the Cauvery issue, Congress members sought a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the Rafale deal.
In the Lok Sabha, as soon as Speaker Sumitra Mahajan took the chair, AIADMK members rushed to the well, holding placards protesting against a proposed dam on the Cauvery river. They were joined by Congress members, who held placards on the Rafale deal. Within 15 minutes of Question Hour, Mahajan was forced to adjourn the House till noon.
As the House reconvened, Opposition members continued to disrupt proceedings. The Left and AIUDF joined the Congress in demanding a JPC probe into the Rafale deal.
Amid the din, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge rose to speak. “There is a serious apprehension among the people in the country over the irregularities and alleged corruption in the acquisition of Rafale fighter jets. The decision has been arbitrary, against the security of the nation and resulted in loss of technology transfer to HAL, a public sector enterprise, and also massive loss to the national exchequer. The matter needs to be investigated by a Joint Parliamentary Committee to fix accountability,” Kharge said.
“This is a very important matter. That is why we are demanding a JPC probe… in which all the details will come out and every file will be checked by Parliament, and not the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has given its judgment based on a false letter from the government,” he said.
Supporting Kharge, CPI(M)’s Mohammed Salim said this was a matter of corruption, and a very serious issue as the government had made a false statement in the Supreme Court.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Narendra Tomar and Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the government was ready for discussions, but refused to concede to the demand for a JPC probe. “If the Opposition wants a debate on Rafale, we are fully prepared,” said Singh.
“As far as a JPC probe is concerned, the whole country is witness to how the deal has been cleared by the Supreme Court. Nobody is suspecting anything in the whole country. There is no need for a JPC,” said Tomar.
When the House met again in the afternoon, the AIADMK MPs continued their protest. Ignoring the pandemonium, the Speaker took up the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016, for consideration.
The Bill was debated, and passed. Mahajan announced that the House could take up the Consumer Protection Bill, 2018, for discussion. But when Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan started to speak, the protests grew louder.
The Speaker asked the MPs to raise their issues after returning to their seats. “If you want to solve the Cauvery issue, you have to discuss it… I am not saying no to a discussion. If you want to solve the problem, this is not the way…The message that goes out is that you don’t want to solve the problem,” she said. With the MPs continuing to protest, Mahajan adjourned the House for the day.
The Rajya Sabha, meanwhile, was adjourned without conducting any meaningful business. Holding up placards seeking a JPC probe into the Rafale deal, Congress MPs joined AIADMK and DMK members, who were protesting on the Cauvery issue, in the well of the House within minutes of its meeting.
Amid the uproar, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Vijay Goel demanded that Congress leader Anand Sharma withdraw his remarks made in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday. Goel said Sharma had misquoted him to give the impression that he had sought an apology from Rahul Gandhi on the Rafale issue. He said he had sought an apology from the Congress, and Sharma was trying to mislead the House.
As Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu said he would go back to the records to verify Goel’s claim, Opposition MPs were already on their feet, protesting. Responding to Congress’s demand for a JPC probe, BJP MPs held up posters seeking Rahul’s apology.
As the slogan shouting continued, Naidu adjourned the House. “It is very clear that none of you want the House to run,” he said.