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In Lok Sabha Congress president Rahul Gandhi (left) pushed for a joint parliamentary committee inquiry into the Rafale deal, a demand that finance minister vehemently opposed. Photo: PTI
In Lok Sabha Congress president Rahul Gandhi (left) pushed for a joint parliamentary committee inquiry into the Rafale deal, a demand that finance minister vehemently opposed. Photo: PTI

Gloves come off in BJP-Congress showdown on Rafale deal

Congress president Rahul Gandhi in Lok Sabha dares PM Narendra Modi for a debate on Rafale deal, even as he insisted on releasing an audio tape involving a Goa minister

New Delhi: There is no end in sight to the tussle between the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the Congress over the Rafale deal, though only four working days remain in the ongoing winter session of Parliament. The Congress-led opposition on Wednesday stuck to its demand for a probe by a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) and the government again rejected it, increasing the political acrimony over the fighter jet deal.

Senior leaders of the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) exchanged barbs over the deal in the Lok Sabha. Congress president Rahul Gandhi, leading the opposition charge, accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of failing to speak on the issue. The government’s defence was led by finance minister Arun Jaitley who accused Gandhi of lying.

“The entire procedure of the deal from the beginning to the end was bypassed. The cabinet committee on security, which authorizes any deal, gave no authorization," Gandhi said. “The Supreme Court has simply said that it is not in our jurisdiction to enquire on Rafale. It never said that there should be no JPC," he said.

Piling on the pressure, Gandhi told a press conference at the party’s headquarters in the evening that he would like to debate the matter one-on-one with Modi but that the prime minister “did not have the guts" to face questions.

Meanwhile, Jaitley in Lok Sabha accused the Congress of “manufacturing lies" to defame the Union government and rejected the demand for a JPC probe on the grounds that it was a political body whose members could take partisan positions. He made several references to the Bofors deal while attacking the Congress.

“There are some people who have a natural dislike for truth. Every word spoken for the last six months on this subject, including in this House is false... He (Gandhi) has a legacy of speaking falsehood," Jaitley said in the House.

The Congress had earlier in the day released an unauthenticated audio recording of a conversation allegedly between Goa minister Vishwajit Rane and an unnamed person making references to the Rafale deal connecting former defence minister and current Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar.

ALSO READ | Rafale deal is not the real issue, defence planning is

Gandhi added to the drama in the day’s proceedings by insisting on playing the audio recording in the Lok Sabha but Speaker Sumitra Mahajan did not give him permission. Gandhi then sought to read out the transcript, but Mahajan said this too could not be allowed until the content was authenticated.

ALSO READ | The Rafale deal points to larger problems

Later in the day in Panaji, Rane claimed the audio was doctored and sought a probe. Parrikar too said it was not authentic and accused the Congress of fabricating information.

Trinamool Congress MP Saugata Roy echoed the demand for a JPC probe. To add to the BJP’s worries, its Maharashtra ally Shiv Sena on Wednesday also backed the opposition’s demand for a JPC probe.


AIADMK MPs suspended for disrupting Lok Sabha

New Delhi: Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan on Wednesday suspended 24 All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) members of Parliament (MPs) for five consecutive sittings after they disrupted House proceedings.

In the Rajya Sabha, chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu asked nine AIADMK and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) MPs, including M. Kanimozhi, to leave the House for the remainder of the day’s session, after they disrupted business by repeatedly storming into the well of the House over the Cauvery water dispute.

The Rajya Sabha was adjourned for the day at 3.15pm after five adjournments since morning.

In the Lok Sabha, after the House reconvened after the third adjournment in the post lunch session, Mahajan announced the names of the AIADMK members, including T.G. Venkatesh Babu, K. Kamraj, A. Anwar Raja, T. Radhakrishnan, and M. Uday Kumar, who were sloganeering in the well of the House. Shaswati Das

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