External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj made an impromptu speech in Parliament defending herself in the Lalit Modi controversy. She was barely audible in the din but her unscheduled speech drew protests with the Congress demanding it be expunged.
Sushma said she had never “requested” or made a “recommendation” to British authorities to provide travel documents to Lalit Modi, her first statement in the House since the monsoon session began.
Zero hour began with the Congress’s Anand Sharma demanding the PM declare the action taken against ministers embroiled in controversy. Deputy chairman P J Kurien said the PM cannot respond unless a discussion, as demanded, gets started. Seizing the opportunity, Leader of the House Arun Jaitley said, “If Anand Sharma does not want to start, the external affairs minister will make a statement right now.”
Swaraj got up and she had been ready for a discussion for day one. “I want to say that the facts on the basis of which the notice (for suspension of rules) has been given is totally baseless… I have never requested British authorities for travel documents of Lalit Modi. I have never made any recommendation… but everyday this allegations is made. I am ready for a discussion.”
The Opposition demanded how she could give a statement without the chair’s permission, leading to an adjournment.
Later, Congress MPs demanded the statement be expunged. Jaitley then said: “I agree… so in that vein I demand that whatever has been said in this House for the last two weeks against the minister without the permission of the chair be also expunged.”
Madhusudan Mistry raised a point of order that despite Swaraj speaking without notice, it was being played up in the media and this is a breach of privilege. Kurien interpreted the point of order as a question about whether Swaraj’s intervention was actually a statement or merely a response to the allegations made against her and ruled in favour of the latter.