Congress changes stand, agrees to debate Rafale deal in Lok Sabhahttps://indianexpress.com/article/india/rafale-deal-congress-bjp-lok-sabha-winter-session-arun-jaitley-air-force-5517858/

Congress changes stand, agrees to debate Rafale deal in Lok Sabha

Until now, the Congress had continued to disrupt proceedings in Lok Sabha, demanding a Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe the deal. But on Monday, it changed its stand and agreed to a discussion.

The Congress said that the Supreme Court’s verdict showed that only a JPC would be able to reach a final conclusion on the deal.

The Congress Monday said it has accepted the government’s “challenge” to hold a discussion in Lok Sabha on the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft from France. Since Parliament will remain closed on January 1, the government and Congress are likely to face off Wednesday, promising a stormy start to 2019.

The Congress Monday said it has accepted the government’s “challenge” to hold a discussion in Lok Sabha on the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft from France. Since Parliament will remain closed on January 1, the government and Congress are likely to face off Wednesday, promising a stormy start to 2019.

Until now, the Congress had continued to disrupt proceedings in Lok Sabha, demanding a Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe the deal. But on Monday, it changed its stand and agreed to a discussion after Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the party was “running away” from a debate. Speaking in Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha, said, “Jaitleyji has thrown a challenge… we are ready for a debate on January 2. Please decide the time.”

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New Delhi: Congress President Rahul Gandhi addresses the media on Rafale deal issue, in New Delhi, Saturday, Sep 22, 2018. (PTI Photo)

Congress members had been protesting in the well of Lok Sabha, holding placards and demanding a JPC probe. They also raised slogans to target the Prime Minister. When Speaker Sumitra Mahajan gave Kharge the opportunity to speak during Zero Hour, he said that the Congress had been asking for a JPC probe “for at least three weeks” — since the winter session began. Singh started to speak even before Kharge had finished: “Khargeji and Congress friends should understand that even if a lie is told repeatedly, it does not become the truth.”

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Later, as Lok Sabha met after lunch to discuss supplementary demands for grants, Kharge again asked for a JPC probe. At this, Jaitley said that Kharge should start a discussion on the Rafale deal immediately, and that the government was ready to give a reply. He said he would prove that the Congress party was spreading lies about the deal.

Before the House was adjourned, Kharge asked the Speaker about the debate, and the time scheduled for it. At this, the Speaker told him: “You keep your challenges to yourself… don’t challenge me.” She said she would decide a time for the debate.

On December 14, vindicating the government stand and taking the sting out of the Congress attack over alleged irregularities in the Rafale deal, the Supreme Court dismissed four petitions seeking a court-monitored investigation into the purchase, saying it found “no occasion to really doubt the process” of decision making, pricing and selection of offset partners. It said there was no material to show that the government had favoured anyone commercially.

The bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph, ruling out any intervention on this “sensitive” issue and underlining that “our country cannot afford to be unprepared/underprepared”, said “perception of individuals cannot be the basis of a fishing and roving enquiry by this court, especially in such matters”.

Following the ruling, the Congress said that the Supreme Court’s verdict showed that only a JPC would be able to reach a final conclusion on the deal.

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