Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday demanded in the Lok Sabha that Congress president Rahul Gandhi apologise on the floor of the House for “misleading” the country on the Rafale jet deal issue.
Buoyed by the Supreme Court’s dismissal of petitions seeking a probe into the purchase of Rafale fighter jets from France, the government launched a counter-offensive on the Opposition in Parliament. The two Houses were adjourned for the day amid sparring between the treasury and the Opposition benches on the issue.
In the Lok Sabha, Singh said during zero hour: “Congress president had for political gains tried to mislead the country. Not only this, they (Rahul and the Congress) tried to tarnish the image of the nation internationally. I want to urge you that Congress president Rahul Gandhi seek pardon from this House and from the countrymen. Today, the Supreme Court judgment has come. The SC has said categorically that ‘it is a financial advantage to the nation’. It has also said that no question mark can be put with regard to the technical capability and merits of the Rafale deal. There is no flaw in the procedure of the purchase too. This has been stated by a bench of three judges.”
The minister recited an Urdu couplet — “Hum to doobenge sanam, tumko bhi le doobenge” — to describe the Congress gameplan. “Perhaps, with this strategy, they have tried to defame this government.”
When Congress floor leader Mallikarjun Kharge tried to join the issue with Singh, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said, “He has not mentioned your name, but you can seek a discussion.” On Congress members’ insistence that he be allowed to speak, she said, “You have to go back to your seats first.”
The Lok Sabha was first adjourned till noon as the House failed to take up question hour due to the din and later for the day as members from the treasury benches and Opposition shouted slogans. Even before proceedings got under way, members from the Congress, AIADMK and TDP came to the well and took to sloganeering and waving placards. The Congress sought a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the Rafale deal, while AIADMK members protested on the Cauvery water dispute. TDP members demanded special status for Andhra Pradesh.
Unlike the previous two days of the winter session, BJP members, all charged up, stood near their seats and shouted in unison: “Rahul Gandhi maafi mango” and “Rahul Gandhi jawab do”.
Amid the ruckus, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said: “Rahul Gandhi and the Congress have misled the country over the issue of Rafale. Today, the decision of the Supreme Court has come. Rahul Gandhi should tender an apology. The Congress should tender an apology.”
The Rajya Sabha, too, witnessed intense sloganeering by the ruling BJP and opposition Congress members, leading to adjournment of proceedings.
Amid the protests, Leader of the House and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley was heard saying that the Opposition has been demanding a debate on the jet deal and so question hour should be suspended to take up the issue.
When the House assembled for zero hour, SP members raised slogans over the recent violence in Bulandshahar, while AIADMK members trooped into the well over the Cauvery water issue. Members of treasury benches raised slogans demanding an apology from Rahul for his alleged lies on the Rafale issue, while Congress members entered the well to demand a JPC probe on the issue.
Deputy Chairman Harivansh adjourned the House till 11.30 am. However, as the protests intensified, he adjourned Rajya Sabha till Monday.