Vice-President and Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu on Saturday referred a notice of breach of privilege against Congress president Rahul Gandhi to Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan for her consideration and further action. The notice had been given by BJP Rajya Sabha member Bhupendra Yadav on December 28.
The move is bound to escalate tension between the ruling BJP and Opposition Congress. Unless checked, it may have a cascading effect on the Budget Session also, which would commence on January 29.
The events emanate from a tweet put out by Rahul on December 27. “Dear Mr Jaitlie – thank you for reminding India that our PM never means what he says or says what he means. #BJPLies,” a post by Rahul on his Twitter handle @OfficeOfRG had said. The BJP gave notice of a breach of privilege in the Rajya Sabha the next day. It contended that Rahul had imputed motives to the “intent, character and conduct” of Leader of the House Arun Jaitley in the tweet.
Yadav said the Congress chief had “intentionally, maliciously and disrespectfully twisted” Jaitley’s surname to defame the House. He said: “In his tweet, the Congress president has deliberately misinterpreted the proceedings of Rajya Sabha in order to malign the government. Thus, it also constitutes an affront to the dignity of the House…”
Sources in Naidu’s office told The Sunday Express that Rahul’s tweet had followed the statement of Leader of the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley in the House on December 27 as part of a solution negotiated with the Congress at the behest of the Rajya Sabha Chairman to resolve the protracted stalemate on the issue of PM Narendra Modi’s remarks on former Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari and former PM Manmohan Singh.
The sources said: “On examination of the notice of privilege moved under Rule 187 of the Rules of the House by Bhupender Yadav along with related documents, Naidu opined that the matter seems to involve prima facie a question of privilege”.
Defending the Congress president, senior party leader Anand Sharma said Rahul had said that “the Prime Minister says what he does not mean, what he means that he does not say. What is wrong with that? It is a natural expression in politics… If political comments and tweets have to become privilege matters, then I think, the ruling party, the government and its top ministers stand exposed and they invite many breach of privilege notices.”