A DAY after he walked out of a parliamentary panel meeting after a heated exchange over a briefing on uniforms and rank structure in the armed forces, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Thursday wrote to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, seeking his intervention to ensure that discussions and presentations held in the Standing Committee on Defence are in consonance with the role and objective of the institution, sources said.
Gandhi, who along with two party colleagues exited the panel meeting after he was not allowed to complete his intervention over the issue, also requested the Speaker to see to it that the right of an elected MP to speak freely is protected, the sources said. While the committee was well within its rights to agree or disagree with a member’s suggestion, a member cannot be disallowed from speaking, he is learned to have said.
It is learned that during Wednesday’s meeting, in which top Army officers, including the Chief of Defence Staff, appeared before the panel, Gandhi took strong exception to members discussing uniforms and rank structure and questioned why more serious issues were not being taken up by the MPs.
Targeting Gandhi for the walkout, Union minister Prakash Javadekar on Thursday said the Congress MP had “insulted” constitutional institutions by imputing that important issues are not discussed by parliamentary panels. He alleged that Gandhi has attended only two of the panel’s 14 meetings in the past 18 months.
“Himself not attending the meeting and conveying desired agenda, and then making imputation of not discussing important issues is an insult to all parliamentary procedures and constitutional institutions,” the minister said.
In his letter to the Speaker, Gandhi is learned to have narrated the entire incident that took place at Wednesday’s meeting and said he had written to committee chairman Jual Oram suggesting that the panel should discuss India’s strategy against China’s aggressive posture at the borders in coordination with Pakistan, India’s response to Beijing’s reusable autonomous armed drones and unmanned system strategy, the information warfare it has been indulging as well as its rocket and strategic capabilities. He is said to have also mentioned the purchase of Rafale aircraft. He also wrote that he conveyed to the chairman that he could not attend the previous meeting due to prior engagements in his constituency Wayanad in Kerala.
The Congress leader, sources said, expressed surprise when the panel chose a discussion on uniforms, but thought that it would be a presentation on the procurement of uniforms. In his letter, he is learned to have told the Speaker that he was disturbed to find that the Chief of Defence Staff had to spend half the day explaining colours and types of uniforms and badges worn by different ranks.
Gandhi is learned to have alleged that he was not allowed to speak by the chairman and that is why he had to walk out of the room.