Home Minister Rajnath Singh sought to know Tuesday what Rahul Gandhi wanted to hide about his foreign visits, leading to noisy scenes in Lok Sabha until Speaker Sumitra Mahajan abruptly adjourned the House for the day. Rajnath’s remarks came in response to an attack on the government by Congress floor leader Mallikarjun Kharge over the “life-threatening attack” of stone-pelting on Rahul. “What would have happened if a stone had hit Rahul Gandhi?” he said. “In Jammu and Kashmir, terrorists hurl stones. Which Jammu and Kashmir terrorist was in Gujarat? Or BJP workers became terrorists.” He demanded an apology from the BJP besides action against those responsible.
The Congress MPs had come prepared to take on the government. Though Mahajan is generally disinclined to accept any adjournment motion to suspend question hour, the Opposition party had apparently persuaded her to make an exception today. She allowed Kharge to hold forth soon after the House met. The moment he finished, his party colleagues walked in to the well holding placards that said, “Hitlershahi nahin chalegi.”
The Opposition found, however, that the other side too had come well prepared. Therefore, what followed was a stinging counterattack by the home minister, amid slogan-shouting by the Congress. Neither Congress president Sonia Gandhi nor Rahul was present in the House. The home minister said that during the last two years, Rahul had undertaken 121 planned and unplanned domestic journeys. He had violated security protocol by not using a bulletproof car on 100 occasions. He said Rahul informed the SPG about a planned foreign visit at the eleventh hour. He said during the last two years, Rahul had travelled abroad six times for a total of 72 days. Even though the Supreme Court had observed that the SPG should accompany a protectee like a shadow, Rahul had not taken the security personnel along.
“Where did he go?” Rajnath sought to know. “Why did he not take SPG along? What does he want to hide? The nation and the House want to know.” Rahul’s attitude, according to him, violated the SPG Act enacted by Parliament.
During his speech, Rajnath described Rahul as “a national leader”, a “respected member of this House” and an “invaluable legacy (anmol dharohar)”.
About the Gujarat incident, the minister said Rahul had been provided a bullet-resistant car and a jammer. But, following the advice of an aide, he had chosen to travel in a Toyota Fortuner. Rahul got out of the car unscheduled in violation of security protocol. At the venue for the rally, some 4,000 people had gathered. Some had come with black flags. Rahul left the venue early, Rajnath said. At Lal Chowk in Dhanera, a stone was hurled by someone. It hit the rear window, injuring an SPG personnel on his arm. A case under various sections of the IPC had been lodged and one person had been taken in to custody.
Rajnath said even the Gujarat chief minister had undertaken a tour of flooded areas. “Why was there no protest against him,” he asked, calling upon the Congress to introspect what caused the leader of an opposition party to come under an attack. As the protests continued, the Speaker adjourned the House at 11.30 am. When the House met again, Sudip Bandyopadhyay of the Trinamool Congress termed the attack “highly condemnable”. It was a “reflection of intolerance” in society, he said. While the Speaker proceeded with business, Congress members, who were back in the well, started shouting. They were joined by Trinamool members, before Mahajan adjourned the House until Wednesday.